Despite the filing of a dissolution petition, prominent Indianapolis-area divorce law firm Hollingsworth & Zivitz, P.C., is not ceasing operations.
Name partner Kena Hollingsworth filed a petition to dissolve corporation in Hamilton Superior Court last month, but she told Indiana Lawyer the petition was filed “for the purpose of bringing resolution to the dispute between business partners, primarily through a court-ordered mediation.” According to court filings in Kena S. Hollingsworth v. Hollingsworth & Zivitz, P.C., and Christina M. Zivitz, 29D02-1904-PL-003832, the dispute is a “deadlock” between Hollingsworth and the firm’s other name partner, Christina Zivitz.
In her petition, Hollingsworth says she and Zivitz, who run the Carmel-based family law firm, each own 50 percent of the firm’s capital stock. Under Indiana Code section 23-1-47-1(2)(A), a court can dissolve a corporation such as a law firm if “the directors are deadlocked in the management of the corporate affairs, the shareholders are unable to break the deadlock, and irreparable injury to the corporation is threatened or being suffered, or the business and affairs of the corporation can no longer be conducted to the advantage of the shareholders generally, because of the deadlock.”
Hollingsworth told the court the last reason for dissolution proceedings is present in her case, writing, “A deadlock presently exists between the two (2) Shareholders in the management of the affairs of the Firm. … Because of the deadlock, the business and affairs of the Firm can no longer be conducted to the advantage of the Shareholders generally.”
But in an email to Indiana Lawyer, Hollingsworth said she hopes mediation will render the dissolution petition moot.
Prior to the filing of the April 22 dissolution petition, Hollingsworth and Zivitz had made plans to resolve their dispute by mediating. In a separately filed request for mediation, Hollingsworth said she and Zivitz were scheduled for a mediation session on April 19 with Indianapolis attorney William Baten of Van Winkle Baten Dispute Resolution serving as the mediator.
“On April 12, 2019, in an email, Zivitz’s counsel confirmed to Hollingsworth and the mediator that the mediation would go forward on April 19, 2019 as scheduled,” the mediation motion says. “On April 17, 2019, two (2) days before the mediation, Zivitz cancelled the mediation, asserting (for the first time) that she lacked information necessary to mediate; specifically, that her business valuation expert has unspecified questions about the Firm’s 2019 tax return that could not be answered until the Firm’s certified public accountant returns to his office on May 1, 2019.”
Hollingsworth went on to write that mediation will allow the parties “to explore a resolution on terms that this Court cannot Order, namely, a buyout… .”
Hamilton Superior Judge Jonathan M. Brown ordered the parties to mediation in a May 1 order, granting Hollingsworth’s request to order the mediation to be conducted no later than May 31, with Baten serving as the mediator. The judge also set a hearing on Hollingsworth’s dissolution petition for June 17.
“In the interim,” Hollingsworth told Indiana Lawyer, “the firm will continue to provide the level of service that the firm’s clients — and referral sources — have come to expect.”
Hollingsworth expressly dismissed any suggestion that the family law firm was ceasing its work, writing instead that “our firm remains hard at work serving our clients, just as we have for the last 15 years, and that work will continue.”
According to the firm’s website, Hollingsworth and Zivitz became law partners in June 2004, when they opened Hollingsworth Jocham & Zivitz, P.C. The two met in college.
Aside from Hollingsworth and Zivitz, the firm employs eight other attorneys, seven of whom are women, and seven staff members.
Zivitz did not respond to a request for comment about the dissolution petition, and court records do not list a lawyer for her. Hollingsworth is being represented by Kevin Tharp, an attorney with Riley Bennett Egloff LLP. Tharp also did not respond to a request for comment.
Looking to the future of her firm, Hollingsworth said she hopes to be positioned for continued growth after the dissolution petition and mediation.
“I have no intentions of going anywhere or doing anything else,” she told IL. “My passion to continue helping clients and families with divorce and family law issues in Indiana will remain unwavering.”•