Staying in Business Together After Divorce

Many married couples run businesses together - should they continue to do so after a divorce?

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An article published in the New York Times reveals that many couples are deciding to remain business partners after divorce. The article highlights an attorney couple whose business flourished at the same time their marriage failed. The couple met in law school, and worked at a law firm in which both played important roles - he worked as chief executive and she helped grow the firm into a successful operation. Despite advice to the contrary, the two decided to work together even after they were divorced in 2006.

Given the amount of married couples in business together, the decision to remain in business, if not in marriage, may not be that surprising. A 2007 Census Bureau estimate shows that about 3.7 million businesses are owned by married couples. This fact has real implications for divorce cases since many business-owning couples will have to face complicated decisions, business and personal, if they decide to end their marriage.

Contested Divorce Litigation

Working together after divorce is an admirable goal, but it may not be realistic for many divorcing couples. A divorce can be an emotional and contentious matter, as a couple has to divide assets, such as the marital home, and agree on child custody, visitation, and alimony. Divorcing couples often do not see eye to eye on these issues, especially where considerable assets are involved.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorces

A divorce can be uncontested or contested. An uncontested divorce is where both parties agree to separate, and are able to reach an agreement as to all the details. More commonly, a divorce is contested, which means that the parties can’t agree on the particulars of the divorce. Disputes often center on the terms or amounts of alimony payments, child custody or visitation schedules, and division of assets.

When parties can’t agree to the terms of a divorce, a divorce judge often orders the parties to attend mediation to try to reach a settlement outside of court. Going to court can be a time-consuming and expensive process, and judges encourage parties to come to an agreement on their own terms, whenever possible. If an agreement cannot be reached out of court, the couple will proceed to trial and a judge will make decisions based on evidence and testimony.

Add in Business Interests

Given the already contentious process of negotiating the terms of a divorce, adding in a business that needs running can really complicate matters. Divorced spouses often have a hard time maintaining a civilized relationship. Trying to run a business together can put a real strain on both parties, and the business itself.

Regardless of where you are in the process, it’s essential to consult an experienced divorce attorney to ensure your interests and assets are fully protected. An attorney provides guidance at every step of the way, and can assist you with filing divorce papers, negotiating the terms of a settlement in mediation, or advocating for your interests at trial.

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