Last month, we wrote about the tricky process of keeping a co-owned business going after the spouses who run it get divorced. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that about 3.7 million small businesses are owned by married couples. Considering how high the divorce rate is, there’s a good chance that many of these couples will struggle with just such an issue (if they haven’t already done so).
The majority of the time, divorcing couples who co-own a business choose to dissolve it, sell it to a third party or have one spouse buy out the other spouse’s interest. And although rare, there is another option: keeping a business relationship with a spouse even after dissolving a romantic one.
A recent National Public Radio news report highlighted some success stories. One woman took over full control of the co-owned public relations firm when she and her husband divorced. But a few years later, she ended up inviting him back into the business and they have done well ever since. She said: “We actually knew that we were not suited to each other at all in any other way, but the fact is that he has this brilliant marketing mind and all we ever talked about on dates were business ideas.”
Psychologists and other mental health professionals who have studied this phenomenon say that running a business successfully with an ex-spouse requires the ability to compartmentalize. Many of us would have a difficult time maintaining a business relationship with a former spouse because of the emotional baggage left over from the marriage and the divorce. But there are those who can quite successfully separate their business lives from their personal lives — even when their business partner was once a major part of both.
To be sure, continuing to co-own and operate a business with a former spouse after divorce is the exception and not the rule. Most business owners will need to pursue one of the options we discussed in our two-part post from March.
Source: National Public Radio, “When Divorce Leads To A Happily Ever After For A Small Business,” Yuki Noguchi, April 17, 2014