Though it can be hard for business partners to keep personal issues out of the workplace, the trouble pales in comparison to the issues faced by partners that used to be married to one another. A recent article in the New York Times discussed what happens when a couple who runs a business gets divorced but wants to continue working together.
Given a 2007 Census Bureau estimate that showed husbands and a wives own about 3.7 million businesses and the high rate of divorce, this situation is more common than many people realize. The following bits of advice are meant to help make the best of what almost anyone would describe as a difficult situation.
First, nothing is more important than respect. In many marriages there is simply too much anger to ever be able to work well together in the future. In others, the parties simply fell out of love but continue to trust and respect one another. Only you know if there are open lines of communication with your spouse and whether you can count on your ex to be consistent and predictable in your business relationship.
Second, seeking professional help can be very valuable. Unlike most other couples that divorce, business owners must still see each other on a regular or even daily basis. That can make it hard to heal and move ahead into new relationships. Seeking professional help can be important to deal with this state of limbo. Allowing personal feelings to interfere in a work conversation can be disastrous and learning tools to avoid that are crucial.
Next, you have to sit down and craft a real partnership agreement. This is something that anyone who partners with a stranger would do right away, but a step almost always skipped when a business is formed with a spouse. Assuming you never created such an agreement, once the divorce is final it’s critical that you work together to craft a plan for what to do and how to split assets if one partner wants out of the business. Having an agreement will add security to what is likely already a tense situation.
Finally, it’s important that you both be honest with your employees. Just like children, employees can pick sides in a divorce, something that can cause companies to fall apart if not dealt with early on. Business owners need to be open about trouble, don’t let gossip circulate, as this will only make workers worry about their jobs. Come up with a common story and stick to it when talking to employees. Reassure your staff that personal issues will not affect the company.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of divorce, contact an experienced Ohio family law attorney who can help guide you through the difficult process. Count on the expertise of Twinsburg family law attorney Carol L. Gasper.
Source: “When Couples Divorce but Still Run a Business Together,” by Bryan Borzykowski, published at NYTimes.com.
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