Deposition questions about the family business for the uninvolved spouse

When taking the opposing spouse’s deposition, a divorce lawyer will ask detailed questions about any family business in which either spouse owns an interest. The questions below would be directed to a spouse who is not involved in the family business by the attorney for the spouse who is. See also Questions for the business owning spouse.

Most often, the non-involved spouse is trying to assert a marital interest in the business, to secure a greater property award. The purpose of these questions is to establish the spouse’s lack of involvement in the business operation and that the business is non-marital property.

  • Was your spouse employed in the family business at the time of your marriage?
  • How long before your marriage had he or she been so employed?
  • At time of marriage you knew your spouse was employed by the family business, didn’t you?
  • At the time of the business, you were aware of your spouse’s interest in it?
  • You were also aware of the business’ real estate holdings?
  • What is your understanding of the organization of the business at the time of the marriage?
  • Who made the business decisions then?
  • Who is making the business decisions today?
  • Has that changed?
  • Is there any difference in the way the business is being operated today from the way it was operated at the time of the marriage?
  • If so, what?

Commonly, a spouse will work in the family business, answering phones, doing bookkeeping, billing, sales, etc.  Sometimes the spouse doesn’t receive a paycheck for the work performed.  The purpose of these questions is to determine if the opposing spouse is making a claim for compensation, and to limit the business owning spouse’s exposure to that claim by exploring the nature of the work, hours actually expended, compensation or benefits actually received, and so forth.

  • Did you ever work in the business?
  • What did you do?
  • How many hours per week did you work?
  • What was your salary?
  • Did you/could you:
    • Write/sign checks on the business accounts?
    • Incur debts, sign for business obligations?
    • Purchase equipment/property for business?
    • Pay bills of the business?
    • Sign notes, mortgages or other debt instruments?
    • Draw money off the business line of credit?
    • Did you participate in management of the business?
    • If so, how?
    • Did you ever participate in meetings with bankers, accountants, lawyers, sales people, or employees?
    • Did you determine compensation to be received:
      • By employees?
      • By your spouse?
      • By yourself?
      • How was your compensation determined?
      • Did you participate in the process?
      • Are you claiming the business owes you money?
      • Are you claiming the business owes your spouse money?
      • Are you claiming the business underpaid you for your services?
      • Are you claiming the business underpaid your spouse for [his/her] services?