Started a business with ex-girlfriend without formal partnership - now she claims full ownership Posted on February 09, 2011

I'm in New York City, for the last several years I have operated a small business (an event photography studio) with my ex-girlfriend. She is now claiming that the business is entirely hers even though we set up the business together, I performed all correspondence and negotiation with all clients, and did a considerable amount of the production work, working on the business every day. The checks were made out to a personal account that she set up though and the business name is her personal name plus the word Studio (e.g. Mary Smith Studio).

We have no formal written agreement but I do have an email trail to show that I worked on the business with her and the clients virtually every day for the past four years since it started.

We have had a number of disagreements recently and she is now claiming that she has entire ownership of the business, that my status has been one of an "employee" and that she will not be giving me the 30% share of the business's profits which I have received since we started operations.

In recent times the nature of my work for the business has been to a large degree promotional - building websites, doing online advertising, etc (though I still also do a large amount of administrative and production work too) and I have recently finished several large projects such as rebuilding her website, so that if I was to be ejected from the business now I would see zero financial return for this work.

On the face of it, do I have a reasonable case to claim part ownership of the business (bearing in mind we originated the business together and I have worked continuously in the business on a revenue splitting basis) and what would be my best route to have this matter decided upon legally? Thanks for any help!

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