How to Cope If You Are Divorcing Your Business Partner

April 12, 2017
Kim Brown

Article written by Kim Brown

Every divorce is different, and while no divorce is ever easy, some are simpler to finalize than others. Spouses who work and own a business together will often find divorce to be a more complicated process – and a more emotional process as well. Not only do these couples have to untangle their personal lives, but they must decide what to do about their professional lives, and determine how that decision will impact their future.

At times, being in this situation while trying to maintain a daily routine and keep the business running can simply be overwhelming. To help you get through this difficult time, we’ve put together some helpful suggestions.

Separate Legal Issues from Emotional Ones

Leave emotions out of professional and legal issues and discussions. It’s healthy for separating couple to talk about feelings, but set aside time to have those conversations. “Create buckets so that financial and emotional issues don’t get mixed up,” advises Michelle Crosby, CEO and co-founder of Wevorce, a mediation-tech startup focused on helping couples amicably divorce. “‘When humans hit conflict, we tend to ball it all up.’ Take time to set your specific needs and ideal outcomes in each area, with concrete and separate goals and plans.”

Don’t Try to Do Everything on Your Own

“During divorce, you’re going to need back up—both legal and emotional,” continues Crosby. That means you will want to have corporate legal professionals to advise you about how to handle your company, family lawyers to assist you with asset division and other family law matters, and perhaps even a councillor to help you better communicate with your spouse. At the very least, have a reliable team of friends and family members who can support you emotionally and help you work through your divorce.

Set Boundaries

Not ever couple will want to continue working together after their divorce is finalized, and that’s okay. However, you will need to ensure that the health of the business does not fail while you and your spouse are working towards a resolution. Neglecting the business could cause your employees to look for a new job, or cause a significant drop in revenue. This will make it harder to sell the company, if that’s what you choose to do, and harder to manage if you end up keeping it. To avoid creating more issues, it may be helpful for you and your spouse to divide responsibilities and roles. Furthermore, if you both have to physically be in the store together, focus on communicating when necessary, rather than fighting. “Conflict will generally deescalate if there is a decrease in expressed emotion and perceived threat over time,” writes authors Diana Mercer and Marsha Kline Pruett.

Be Flexible

Having realistic expectations will make the divorce process easier for both you and your spouse. If neither of you wants to compromise, your case will likely end up in court, and that costs you both time and money. Instead, replace fighting with negotiation and cooperation strategies, and be prepared to make some sacrifices.

Take Care of Yourself

Making important decisions will be easier to do if you are physically and mentally well. That is why it is so important to take care of yourself during a divorce. If you’re feeling depressed, drained, lost, or all three, be proactive and tell someone. Take a staycation one weekend and treat yourself to a day of pampering, and try to eat well and exercise. John Howard, a couples therapist and educator, says that exercise is known to ward off depression and help people channel their emotions. Finally, practice self compassion. Don’t dwell on what you’ve done wrong, focus your energy on the positives of your future.

If you own a business with your spouse and need advice about how to proceed with a divorce, we can help. Contact us to schedule a consultation.