What Happens When Spouses Work Together and Get Divorced?

We spend so much of our lives working, it is understandable that many of us end  in relationships with co-workers. In fact, CareerBuilder.com reports that 39% of people end up dating a co-worker and 30% of those people end up marrying the co-worker. Additionally, many small businesses are co-owned by couples. In as far back as 2000, an estimated 3 million of 22 million U.S. small businesses were couple owned and that number has greatly increased over the years. In 2007, 3.7 billion business were couple owned according to the Census Bureau.

There are many benefits that can come with working together along side your spouse. You share goals and celebrate successes together. A commonly cited downside of working with your spouse is that you bring your job and job stress home with you. So, what happens if it does not work out? When a marriage comes to an end, does the business relationship come to an end as well? That is largely up to you and your partner.

When you are married to a co-worker or a business co-owner and you are facing the end of your marriage, you have two options: leave the business or stay and find a way to make it work. If you want to stay in the business, you will need to be able to put aside any personal issues with your former spouse. This is easier said than done so be sure to try and be completely honest with yourself. Ask yourself:

Will I be able to effectively carry out my job duties with my former spouse around?

Will I be able to treat my former spouse impartially?

Will co-workers be uncomfortable around me and my former spouse?

The effect this change in relationship status may have on co-workers is a very important consideration. Tension at work can effect everyone around you and create an unpleasant and unproductive environment. Any discomfort felt between you and your former spouse will be felt by others. Consider whether you and your former spouse will be able to keep things at such a professional level that others will feel comfortable and confident working with both of you.

If you decide that either you or your former spouse should leave, you will need to discuss who. This may require an impartial third party such as a mediator. You may also want to consider restructuring both of your roles within the business. Maybe one or the other need not leave the company, but needs to go into a different role or department. Make sure to consult with business and financial professionals to evaluate what type of impact any such changes would have on your business.

It is a big step to end a marriage and it is a big step to end or change a business relationship. If you want to stay in business with your former spouse, the biggest thing will be working towards a clear separation between personal and business issues. If you choose to leave the business, make sure you are protecting your business and financial interests before you exit.