You and your spouse have been getting into too many disagreements, and you’re just not happy together. You can tell that you’re drifting apart and it’s time to move on. As a result, you go to your spouse and tell them that you would like to get a divorce.
Here’s the catch: Your spouse is also your business partner. The two of you opened a family business together years ago and you’re still running it. If you get divorced, what are you supposed to do with that company?
You have three basic options
First and foremost, you do have three options, the first of which is to simply keep the business. The two of you can still run it together. If you’d rather not do that, you could offer to buy out your spouse’s half of the business so that you can keep running it while they go on to something else. Or, if you don’t have the money to do that or if it feels too complicated, you could simply sell the business to someone else and let this third party take over entirely.
How do you make joint ownership work?
In your situation, say that you want to continue being joint business owners after the divorce. You still want that income, you love the business, you love the employees and you’ve worked hard to create this company. You don’t want to leave it. Here are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind:
- It is best to have roles that are very carefully defined. Make sure that you each know what you’re supposed to do in the business and how you’re supposed to interact with each other. You may even be able to set up your roles so you don’t have to have that much interaction, thereby reducing friction.
- It can help to step away for a little bit. Taking a short time off from the business may be the break that you need to help you move past the emotional side of the divorce. Remember that you still have to be focused on the business relationship and keeping that strong.
- Consider creating a contract. Maybe the two of you didn’t have a partnership agreement before, since you were married, but now you need to use one. This can help to eliminate disputes over wages, revenue, business direction and much more. You may have assumed that you would be able to get along and make these decisions while you were together, but don’t make that assumption once you’re apart.
There’s a lot to think about as you get divorced and try to sort out what to do with all of your assets, including your family business. Make sure you know about all of your legal options.