Do you think that getting divorced means you cut off all contact with your ex? For some people, it certainly can. However, for many, there is just no way to completely sever those ties, even when they end the legal marriage.

During your marriage, you and your wife started a business together. You had your designated roles and responsibilities. Now, you’re about to go through a divorce and you may not be sure what to do. Do you continue owning it together? Do you offer to buy her out of her share? Or maybe you just want out and hope she can buy your share of the business. Before you make this decision, there may be factors that may answer this for you

Sometimes, divorces are so bitter that neither person can stand to look at the other, but others are relatively amicable. The same is also true for couples who run businesses together. The cleanest way to break things off is to sell the company or for one former spouse to sell their interest to the other and allow the other person to run the company alone. This is not always possible, though. The couple may not want to sell and may not want to lose their income, so they’ll choose to continue working together as business partners even after they get divorced.

Also, how your divorce plays out, will have a lot to do with whether you could consider continuing to own and run it together.

The question comes down to whether both partners are willing to keep working together. If either person can’t remain professional, it’s going to be challenging to keep a business running smoothly. Personal issues can quickly impact your company’s success, especially if one partner sees it as a way to hurt the other. On the other hand, I’ve seen some couples find they work better together as professional partners and nothing more. These pairs discover they can react more professionally to common complications if they can go home at night and not sit across the dinner table from their co-worker.

Running a business is never easy and doing so with an ex-spouse adds extra complications. For your business to continue being successful, here are 5 strategies that can help keep a business partnership running even after a marriage partnership has ended.

  • Have an agreement on paper. Every professional partnership should be covered by a written contract. It should cover responsibilities, which may be divided up differently after a divorce, reflect different or more precise pay divisions, how disputes will be resolved, and anything else that might come up in a dispute. I recommend this agreement be drafted by an attorney and notarized.
  • Trust each other. Having trust is one of the most important components of running a business together successfully. Couples whose divorce results from a serious breach of trust, such as infidelity, will likely not be able to remain in business together whereas couples whose separation is simply the result of a falling out of love may be more successful as business partners because they retain trust in each other. Maintaining open lines of communication and seeking counseling may help to repair broken trust in some partnerships.
  • Hire an unbiased third party to resolve disputes. If you were unable to resolve issues as a married couple, trust me when I tell you that resolving issues as divorced business partners will be even harder. Mediators or outside experts are one of the most beneficial ideas for any family business that may have a difficult time resolving internal disputes. I recommend a business coach, mediator, or an attorney chosen by both parties.
  • Establish boundaries. It’s best to keep your discussions to only business matters. Make a conscious decision to not probe the other beyond things that are not relevant to the business, in other words, treat your ex as if they were any other co-worker.
  • Recognize you need each other. Let’s be honest, if you didn’t need one another, you most likely would not continue to be in business with each other. Finances are the number one reason divorced couples remain in business together. With that said, find a way to put their emotions aside and make decisions that were best for the business’ success. When you realize how important the other person is to you financially, that helps to maintain a respectful tone. This person might not be an emotional asset to you anymore but they’re still important to your financial life.

Will this work for you? It depends on many factors. It certainly can, and it does make the asset division process easier. The key is whether you can separate your business life and your personal life. If you can, you may be able to work together regardless of your romantic history — though many couples do find this too emotionally difficult to be an option. If you do decide this is an option, treat your spouse like the professional they are, and you will have better success in owning your business together.

Hayley Lisa

The Divorce Coach for Men