Florida Business Valuation: Neither Coin Tosses Nor Splitting the Difference Allowed

Valuing a marital business, most typically a closely held business with no third party ownership interests, is almost always a difficult affair.

There are several different methods of valuation used by forensic accountants and other business valuation professionals.

And they can produce wildly different results. And none may strike either spouse as particularly “spot on”.

Because, when you get right down to it, any way you cut it, it is really hard to nail down the true value of a small closely held business.

When spouses are inclined to settle their case amicably, all too often disputes over valuations and even calculations are settled (or settlement is attempted) predicated on the “let’s split the difference” school of hard knocks method of valuation / calculation.

And at the settlement table, that may close the deal.

But, what about those cases where valuation is litigated? Where the experts are brought in to provide professional business valuations.

While in theory the testimony of valuation experts should make it straightforward for a family court judge to identify and establish an accurate value for a business, in reality it may not be quite that straightforward at all.

In one relatively recent Florida case, a Florida family court judge appears also to have followed that well-worn path to business valuation of just “splitting the difference”. In any event, the final judgment failed to explain how the divorce court judge came up with his valuation – but the number was in fact extremely close to a split of the difference between the two spouses’ proposed valuations.

On appeal, an intermediate level appellate court held that this approach was an erroneous abuse of the family court’s discretion.

Surprisingly, there is a line of cases that concludes that various family court judges had “split the difference”, and they reverse the various divorce court judges’ holdings because they are not supported by “competent evidence”.

Now in some of those cases, it may ultimately turn out that the final judgments simply failed to reflect in sufficient detail sounder methodologies actually employed by those Florida divorce court judges in establishing their valuations.

In others, perhaps not so much … until remand back to the family court trial … unless the spouses opt to avoid another trial … and decide themselves this time around to split the difference instead. Stranger things have happened.

Read more in this intermediate level appellate case.