Staying in Business Together While Getting a Divorce
On behalf of
You married your business partner, but after years of disagreements, you are now considering divorce. At the same time, the company you run together is making enough money to support each of you in life beyond marriage.
You don’t want to give up your career or your business. How can you get past all the arguing, bitter resentment and emotional damage and still work side by side? In the right circumstances, and with agreements in writing, it can be done.
Define your roles within the company
If it’s a sizable business and one of you is a project manager, but the other excels at finances, you should be able to continue to make your contributions to the business without tripping over one another all the time. On the other hand, if you’ve been running a mom-and-pop corner store, life could remain more complicated since you may have to work more cooperatively with one another.
Attorneys recommend that you sit down with an objective third party and come up with a job description for each of you, defining your areas of responsibility and creating a list of expectations for life after the divorce. This can help you avoid nitpicking your partner to death because “that’s not how I’d do it.”
Agree upon a third-party mediator at work
While navigating the divorce, it’s terribly tempting to start an argument with your future ex simply because you don’t have enough paper clips. It’s possible, find a neutral party at work–somebody who bears a similar level of responsibility to the two of you and has no devotion to either side to help both of you work past petty squabbles. They should not be your assistant or best friend, as that will only bolster feelings of persecution on either side.
A therapist can help you adjust
Using a therapist that works with both of you can help identify areas of stress and conflict caused by the divorce and help you leave those problems outside of the work place. Where the two of you used to bring your family life to work, it’s more important than ever to create boundaries that leave personal issues at the house or in your attorney’s office. It can help create a neutral territory where you both are able to focus on business, and not the separation agreement.
Keep accounting in the loop
Precise records of business income and expenditures are more important than ever, especially if one of you buys the other out in the end. If you were responsible for this task, it might be a good idea to hire an outside firm to reduce the perception of cooking the books to benefit the divorce settlement.
Ultimately, it is possible to survive the loss of your marriage while maintaining a successful business, but don’t think it will be easy. The court cannot require you remain in business together, so this must be done by mutual agreement. Consult an attorney for advice throughout the process.