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What happens to our family business in divorce?

Question: My wife and I ran our own restaurant near Houston for the past twelve years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but ultimately our arguments over our relationship have leaked into our business. Our disagreements over every little decision have cost our restaurant thousands. I’m ready to go through with a divorce, but I don’t know what’s going to happen to my business. How can we go through a divorce without destroying it?

Answer: When your main source of income is tied to your relationship, divorce takes on a whole new level of stress. Your spouse could become angry and may fight to obtain the biggest share of the business – if not all of it. This can create an intense legal battle over how to split the family business, which could eventually prevent either of you from keeping it.

The first option that could help some couples is to continue running the business as partners, setting aside your differences for the good of their company. However, this particular case would probably suffer from continuous debates over how to run the restaurant. You may come to realize that co-owning would only delay business failure in your situation.

The second option may be a better fit. You could be able to keep the entire business by paying your spouse for her share with other marital assets, such as funds from a joint bank account. Depending on the size of your business and assets, however, a buy-out might be too expensive. In addition, your spouse could prepare to fight for the exact same thing, leading to a stale-mate.

If nothing else, you and your spouse could agree to sell the restaurant and split the profits. With the money, you could then begin a new restaurant and continue to pursue your passion. The downsides of this option are that selling can be difficult and you will have to walk away from the business you worked hard to build over time. It’s not easy to start over, but you would be able to avoid some of the problems that have plagued your business in the past.

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