Going through a divorce is never what someone would call a fun experience, even if everyone is on good terms. Naturally, it upends many things in your life, and it can be more difficult when you have a family business to worry about. Like a marriage, a family business is a significant commitment. Whether you work with your spouse in the same business or co-own a business with them, a divorce can throw a wrench into the works.
This doesn’t mean you should stay married for the sake of the business, of course; it will only introduce stress and tension into the workplace. But if you are divorcing and there’s a family business involved, there are some steps you should take to help preserve the success of the business as you go through the divorce and beyond.
Put the Business First
Just because the marriage didn’t work doesn’t mean the business that both of you put time and effort into has to end. Put the business first and be honest about what you can and can’t do. Can you continue working together, or do one–or both–of you need to leave it?
It is possible you can keep working together, even if there is conflict in the divorce. Focus on acting like business partners and not a married couple. Leave personal disagreements at the door when it comes to work performance, avoid unnecessary criticism of each other and take responsibility for your actions.
Should you decide to keep working together, keep in mind that you will need to navigate those emotional waters quite a bit at first. It will likely be tense and possibly awkward in the beginning, but it is possible for you to continue to work together in some cases.
Divide If You Have To
Some divorces are relatively peaceful, while others are full of contention. If the tone of your divorce is one that you believe will prevent you from working together, it may mean selling the business or closing the doors.
If this is the path you will have to take, think about how you will divide the business and its assets together. There are different approaches–such as income or market–that you can use to divide things in a way you both can live with and feel is fair. Your family law attorney will help you make this decision and explain all your options.
Should one of you want to keep the business while the other one leaves, the spouse leaving will likely have to be bought out for their share. This is an option you can also discuss with your attorney, but keep in mind that it may cost a lot to do this upfront, particularly for a high-value business.
Remind Yourself It’s Not Personal
Business is never personal, technically speaking, but in a family business, the personal can bleed into the workplace. If you both decide to stay at the business, you may have to deal with things that are emotional or awkward–such as your ex dating again or your ex seeing you date again–or workplace gossip. You will have to learn how to navigate these social minefields at first, but over time, it should fade.
It is entirely possible to preserve and protect the family business during a divorce, and to keep it afterwards. However, bear in mind that this may not always be easy to do, especially at first. Speak to your attorney and your spouse about the different options available in your situation. Hopefully, you can come to an agreement with your spouse on what path to take.