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Divorced Business Partners? How to Make It Work

By Andrew Lu on December 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Many small businesses are called "mom and pop" stores for a reason, as they're often run by married couples. But what happens when the marriage ends, making them newly divorced business partners?

Marriage is stressful, and so is running a business; the combined stress can sometimes be too much to handle. But just because a marriage ends does not necessarily mean that you have to end a successful business too.

Here are some tips to keep your business running smoothly post-divorce, as recently discussed in the The New York Times:

  1. Be respectful. Divorce is bitter, painful, and there may be a lot of hurt feelings. But to successfully run a business together, the two heads of the business -- be they spouses or friends -- must be able to work together, and that starts with respect. Respect means that ex-marital partners continue to listen to each other and value the opinion of the other. If there are too many hurt feelings and trust issues, and respect is completely gone, it may be impossible to still work together as business partners.

  2. Get help. A divorced couple who owns a business together still must see each other at work. You can't just run and hide or go on with your life as if your former spouse never existed. This forced coexistence can be extremely difficult to handle, and you may need to seek professional counseling to save your business relationship in spite of your failed marriage.

  3. Come to an agreement. You may have informally started a business together when you were a married couple. But now that you are divorced, you'll want to embrace the formality and perhaps create a partnership agreement. This agreement can spell out what happens if someone wants to sell, if there is an impasse in the decision-making process, and even which partner is the "boss."

Running a business is tough enough. If you are going through a divorce or have divorced your spouse, who is also a business partner, you will have to deal with some unique challenges to keep your professional relationship strong.

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