You and your spouse begin your lives together as excited entrepreneurs dreaming of the successful business you will create together. You both dedicate many long hours, and behold you arrive, your company has flourished under your management and more successful than you imagined. Unfortunately, your personal relationship took a beating and now you head toward divorce.
For those couples who did not think a contract was needed didn’t check the National Center for Health Statics estimates. It shows that between 40 and 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Still no one wants to believe they will get divorced; but had you incorporated a “just in case scenario” into your business contract before the roller coaster of divorce and emotions entered the picture, you may be experiencing a smoother transition.
Don’t be alarmed there are a few strategies that may help you get through the negotiation process and make the best of a difficult situation.
- Honor the transition period, take time to explore what will work best for you, your ex-spouse, your children and the business. Sort out how to best deal with your business, finances, and emotions.
- Think back and remember what you wanted to accomplish when you started this business and decide if working together will continue to make it more successful than it would be separately. Ask yourself if this desire is strong enough to allow you both to continue to work together for the benefit of this common goal?
- If you choose to continue your success without the marriage, a new set of boundaries at work will need to be clearly defined. Identify the task and define the roles each of you will have going forward, use clear communication and let the other do their job. Avoid constant interaction; this may lead to too many difficult taxing emotions and reactions.
- You will both have to begin a separation of your personal and business lives. This may not be easy at first, so get help with both the legal and emotional issues; use a mediator for the legal and business options and a counselor to help with your emotions. Gather a group of friends, family and professionals that you can lean on for support as you make this transition.
- Make sure your new legal agreement includes an exit clause that you both agree on, should your business relationship fall apart. As you move forward, realize that your decision does not need to be final; life changes and so do roles in a company.
Whether you choose to stay in the business or collect your share and go off on your own, know there’s no right answer. Many couples who stay on board agree that in order to work together successfully, clear mature communication and respect for each other are key. When you know that the other person is fair and ethical you can retain trust in each other, and “keep the business a live after divorce”… jointly or separately.
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