Family Business Disputes
Chicago family business dispute lawyer. When a business is owned by two or more people who are related it can give rise to some unique issues. We can help.
Family Business Disputes Lawyer – Chicago, IL
When a business is owned by two or more people who are related it can give rise to some unique issues that may not usually be seen in other business law settings. For example, if a husband and wife own a business and decide to divorce, the issue of who owns what and who can do what can become a significant factor in the divorce proceedings. In addition to the owners needing legal guidance, keep in mind that a business—unless it is being operated as a sole proprietorship or partnership—will exist as a separate legal entity from the owners and the business itself may be in need of legal protection and guidance.
Here are some of the more common issues that give rise to family business disputes, and some ideas to protect your business from them. Keep in mind that family businesses—because of their unusual circumstances—will greatly benefit from the assistance and guidance of a seasoned business attorney. Gentleman Law thrives on our ability to answer difficult questions and assist business owners—of all types of businesses—in establishing the best policies, procedures, and arrangements for the business.
Business versus personal affairs
Because a family business tends to be somewhat unique in its dynamics it is easy for owners of the business to allow personal affairs to spill over into their professional lives. For example, if a husband and wife own a business and they have an argument over a domestic matter in the morning, it can be easy for them to bring it to work and continue the battle throughout the day.
One way to prevent this is to implement strict boundaries. Home matters stay at home and cannot be discussed at work—even if both parties agree with the discussion. Likewise, for the sake of the marriage, some couples may agree that work matters cannot be discussed at home on the weekends or during vacations.
Unclear roles and requirements
Everyone who works for the business should have an assigned role and responsibilities. Some family businesses will see their payrolls growing as various family members decide to “work” for business; sometimes they don’t do much work at all and still draw a paycheck.
To prevent this, all employee-employer relationships—even those among close family members—should be in writing, with clear responsibilities and benefits spelled out. The business should have a system in place for evaluating the performance of all employees, and this system should be identical regardless of the familial relations (or lack thereof) of a given employee.
Awards and benefits should be based on performance
One issue that sometimes arises with family-owned businesses is the practice of nepotism: awarding promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to family members because of their status as a member of the family and not because of their merits as an employee. In some cases, this can subject the business to legal action from other non-family employees; even if this is not the case it is simply bad business sense to demoralize the non-family employees by playing favorites with family members.
To prevent this from occurring, family owned businesses should ensure that all annual reviews are documented and all benefits are clearly justified. Doing this will help protect the business both from legal exposure and from the adverse business effects that such a practice will have on other employees.
Family disputes or breakups
Probably one of the largest threats to a family business is the possibility of a breakup or dispute within the family affecting the business itself. As alluded to above, a business which is jointly owned by a married couple can suffer serious issues if that couple decides to divorce. Likewise, disputes between siblings, children, and so on can have serious repercussions on the business.
To protect against this it may be a good idea to have an attorney draft a set of procedures to follow in the event of a family dispute. While it may be unthinkable right now that something like this could ever happen to you, it’s best to have a plan for it put in place just in case.
We excel in helping the owners of family businesses draft procedures and policies to ensure that the business continues to run smoothly regardless of what may be happening in the personal lives of the owners and their family. Contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
Operating a family business has its own set of rewards and its own set of complications. By consulting an attorney with experience in the operation of family businesses you can minimize the chances of anything happening to your business even in the event of an unforeseen crisis in the family. Call us today and let us help you protect the business that you have worked so hard to build.
Turn to an experienced Illinois lawyer
Gentleman Law has been helping clients with family business disputes for more than 16 years. Call (312) 741-1039 or contact Gentleman Law online today to discuss your case, free of charge. The office is centrally located in the Loop near Daley Plaza just steps from the Cook County Courthouse and the federal courthouse. Spanish is spoken in the office for your convenience.