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When marital dissolution and business divorce mix

A married couple's dream of opening a family business can become a nightmare if the spouses or "copreneurs" decide to end the personal aspect of their relationship. As with any aspect of property division in divorce mediation, an attorney-mediator who is patient, persistent and creative can be an equally valuable asset.

The concept of "happily ever after" flies in the face of drafting formal business agreements between newlyweds. Married couples should leave nothing to chance. Documents must be well prepared and enforceable whether the business, marriage or both end. Without legal paperwork, the law will dictate business asset division.

The growth of a business comes from both financial and emotional investments. Social life comes second to developing the family-run operation. Divorcing copreneurs have a choice moving forward. They can continue to work together or one spouse can buy out the other. Naturally, personal issues seep into these discussions. An attorney-mediator can help you work through the decisions while minimizing tension and other complications.

If divorce mediation leads to an agreement where one spouse will stay with the business, temptation may exist to stagnate the value of the business to minimize its worth in property division. However, holding off on key sales or necessary improvements until the divorce is finalized could end up being a poor business decision. Putting a company on "lock down" for short-term personal gain can have long-term effects on a business.

Dynamics become more complex when other loved ones involved in the enterprise's operation are impacted by the decision to divorce. An attorney-mediator can not only assist in dealing with the couple/copreneurs in the room, but also those not in the room, including part-owners, co-founders, beneficiaries, suppliers, customers, advisors and financers.

In the end, the business may have to end because of divorce. In those situations, a skilled and effective attorney-mediator is particularly beneficial to help couples wind up every aspect of both partnerships as they strive to move on to new chapters of their personal and professional lives.

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