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Work In Progress: Can You Face Working with Your Spouse After Divorce?

If you’re in business with your spouse and you then divorce, what happens?

For some couples a divorce means one or both get out of the shared business, but an increasing number of ex-couples are deciding to stick it out and continue working together.

It’s estimated that about 30 percent of American businesses are co-owned by spouses, and with more than half of all marriages ending in divorce, numbers point to the fact that a significant amount of people will have to make hard decisions when it comes to divorce and business.

What Allows the Partnership to Thrive?

When you’re first getting divorced, it can seem like your worst nightmare to face your ex-spouse at work every day, particularly if there’s a lot of anger or resentment, but at the same time you have to consider the economic ramifications of not continuing to work together.

If you co-own a successful business with your former spouse, is either of you willing to walk away?

While some people just can’t make it work, even when they give it their best effort, the former couples who tend to do the best are those who look at their business as they would co-parenting. Despite their personal differences, they have to put them aside for the wellbeing of the business.

Additionally, couples that do well when continuing to work together often have a high level of trust in one another. Regardless of the situation, you have to be able to trust your business partner with everything from money to making smart decisions. If you’re at the point where you have zero trust in your former spouse, you may not be equipped to continue owning a business together.

How You Can Remain Successful

Whether out of choice or necessity, if you decide to remain in business with your ex-husband or wife, there are some things you can do to make the transition a little easier.

The primary thing to do is begin working with a family lawyer immediately, and collaborate on ways you can make the business continue to be successful. Neither of you can do it alone.

Laying out clear guidelines can help eliminate confusion and ensure you’re running your business based on what’s best from a financial standpoint, as opposed to letting emotion rule.

Also important is remaining united in terms of the business, and always presenting a professional image to employees and clients.

A business, even if its owners decide to stay in business, can begin to suffer if there’s no unity in the decision-making process, or if employees sense weaknesses in how the owners handle situations. Again, it’s very similar to co-parenting after divorce—regardless of how you may feel on a personal level, you have to come together on a business level.

Finally, work with your ex-spouse to create common goals. By putting these goals into place you’ll have something shared to work toward, which can help your business relationship blossom, even in the midst of an ending of your personal relationship. 

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