Last Kiss: Tips for Divorce and Split Ups with Business Partners

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D.

When “Janelle Booker” divorced her husband Raymond of fifteen years, it made the front page of the society section of newspapers. Janelle and her husband were the socially prominent and successful partners of Book with Booker Private Yacht and Jet Booking and Fractional Ownership Company. The headlines spelled out in huge block letters: “Raymond Booker Booked an Affair in the Bunk.” Suddenly, customers and fractional owners backed out of their deals until the couple worked out the divorce settlement. Janelle learned the business from Raymond, but she failed to learn the fine print of their anti-nuptial and business contracts. The divorce took more than three years, and in the meantime the Book with Booker Company almost went under.

Mixing love and work always carries risks. Some couples manage these break ups well, but you should never count on love and good will to save you financially if you call it quits. Use the following tips as a guide for joint ventures.

  1. Prevention is the best plan: Get a lawyer. When “Helene” asked her husband to finance a handbag business, she hired a team of divorce and corporate attorneys to draw up an agreement to protect her future should the marriage end. Helene especially established personal checking, savings and investment accounts. Twenty years later, when the last of their three children went off to college, her husband filed for divorce. Her previous legal precautions protected her ownership and management.
  2. Delineate separate duties—and space if you remain business partners. Neither “Claire” nor “Henry” felt capable of running their furniture company without the other. Claire was great at the details of inventory, tax returns and account management. Henry was the charmer and excelled in sales, customer service and international buying. After four years of an unhappy marriage but highly successful business, they decided to remain business partners. Claire took over the top floors and hired an office manager to serve as go-between. After a few years, Claire and Henry conducted business face to face without feeling the sting of the break up.
  3. Put the past behind you if you remain business partners: No kisses, no fights, no attitude—and get help if you can’t get past it. “Sarah” and “Anthony” ran an independent insurance company. When Sarah wanted divorced Anthony, she underestimated the difficulty of continuing the business with him. Anthony was an easy-going man whose personality earned the trust of clients, and his style made Sarah think that the transition to partners-in-business-only would be smooth. Surprisingly, she became irritable. She didn’t realize how much of their business planning was done at home during dinner. Suddenly, the conversational ease diminished. When Sarah tried to revive the marriage, Anthony said he found another woman. A therapist who specialized in divorced business partners helped them establish effective communication.
  4. Don’t diminish your expertise if you are no longer—or never were--a business partner. Not all business partnerships are established as legal entities independent of the marriage. “Margaree” was “Steve’s” employee at his public relations firm. After ten years of marriage, when Margaree could no longer tolerate Steve’s insensitivity and divorced him, she felt “out in the cold.” Steve was known in the community. No one knew much the success of the company was due to her ideas and open personality. With the help of an industrial psychologist, Margaree redesigned her resume. The consultant made her list her accomplishments. Margaree was shocked at how many programs she developed and clients she signed. Reviewing her success allowed her to see herself as a gifted professional rather than the “helpmate” of her husband. Through her contacts she found a rewarding job with an international firm.

It might feel like the end of the world when you split with your business partner, but it doesn’t have to be. When Margaree, for example, discovered her greater emotional strength and professional worth, she expected—and then found—a more mature man as a love partner .

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Author's Bio: 

LeslieBeth Wish is a Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker and author who is nationally recognized for her contributions to women, love, relationships, family, career, workplace, and organizations.

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