Divorce- How to Negotiate an Amicable Split When Your Spouse is Your Business Partner
According to the National Federation of Independent Business, there are more than 1 million husband and wife teams that run a business together. In addition to the stress of managing a professional business, these owners are also faced with the normal struggles of being married. Unfortunately, the divorce rate in America is nearly 50% which means that some of these couples that are divorcing are the same couples who are business partners. Divorce in itself can be messy and difficult, but add the business element and you could be facing an entirely different set of circumstances because the divorce is affecting both your personal and professional life. How, then, can couples who were once business partners divorce amicably while splitting the assets and responsibilities associated with their business? Here are a few different ways to negotiate an amicable divorce between business partners.
Stay in the Business
While this might be the most difficult on a personal level, it could end up being the easiest and most lucrative solution from a business perspective. If the couple can find a way to put their differences aside for the sake of the business, it might be possible for the couple to remain business partners despite the fact that they are no longer married. Couples might find it easier to negotiate other aspects of the divorce if they don’t feel like their business and livelihood is being threatened as well.
The Buy Out
This is probably the most common occurrence in the instance of business partners who are dealing with divorce. The spouse who has the more active role in the business will buy out the other. For instance, if one spouse was the main person in charge while the other handled more of the administrative tasks, the business could be saved by buying out the spouse with the less active role. In these instances, it is important to negotiate a buy-out deal that is fair for both parties. Obviously, the spouse who is getting bought out is going to have to start over with a new career. Therefore, the other spouse should negotiate a fair compensation package to allow their ex time to get back on their feet. If one spouse is reluctant to be bought out, the other spouse could negotiate other aspects of the divorce to level the playing field. For example, it might be fair to let the spouse who is getting bought out keep the house.
Enlist a Collaborative Divorce Team
A collaborative divorce is a process by which both parties use mediation and negotiations to settle their divorce. Each party hires their own attorney and in some cases a licensed mediator. In the instance of divorcing business partners, the divorce team would also include financial experts and business brokers who could assist the couple in sorting out the financial aspects of splitting their business. A collaborative divorce team offers more flexibility and more options for negotiation that will help each party avoid possible landmines. A collaborative divorce team can help both parties determine fair salaries should they choose to remain business partners. They could also make both spouses 50-50 partners, with an agreed upon third party who acts as an arbitrator in the event of a disagreement about business decisions. The prospect of starting over again can be daunting, and this would be an instance when the parties could benefit from a collaborative divorce approach.