Divorce when your business partner is your spouse

You and your spouse had many things in common. Among them was the desire to work together as partners in business. Perhaps you grew this idea after you met in business school, or you and your spouse dreamed it up after you married. Maybe one of you inherited a family business. Whatever the circumstances, you became business partners and made it a success.

What has not been so successful is your marriage. If you are facing the prospect of a divorce, you may have concerns about what will happen to the business, especially if it has been your livelihood and life's work. You do have options for the future of the business depending on the dynamic that exists between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Consider all your options

When business partners divorce, they must consider a critical asset that many other spouses do not have. Your partnership with your spouse presents you with a serious conflict to resolve. Depending on your goals for the business and your prospects for employment post-divorce, you may choose from among these options:

  • Buy your spouse's share of the business
  • Use other marital assets to trade for your spouse's half of the business
  • Sell your share of the business to your spouse
  • Sell the business and split the profits
  • Continue running the business as partners after the divorce

If it is your goal that the business continues to thrive, you may have to do some careful negotiating. Buying your spouse's half or dividing the proceeds from the sale of the business will take a thorough appraisal to determine the true worth of the company. Appraisals can be expensive, especially if your spouse does not agree with the total your valuator quotes. However, once you have a valuation for your business, you can sell or trade, confident that you received a fair price for your efforts.

Working it out together

Continuing to run the business as partners with your ex is a delicate undertaking. If you and your spouse have a reasonably amicable relationship, you may be able to pull it off without damaging the confidence of your clients or employees. You will save money on the valuation and the tremendous burden of trying to find an appropriate buyer for your New York business. However, if the trust between you is broken, you may find it difficult to remain civil, even for the sake of your customers.

There may be additional options that would work for whatever type of business you run. With the advice of an attorney who has experience in business law as well as family law, you may be able to find a workable solution.

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