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What if you're breaking up your marriage and your co-owned business?

Every divorce is different, but one thing is a constant: it's extremely complicated. You undoubtedly share property, including a house, you may share children and you may also be partners in a business you started together. All of this has to be carefully considered, planned for and settled fairly and amicably for you to move on with your personal and professional life.

There are special challenges when you own a business with your spouse. You may both want to keep the business, and continue your work relationship after your marriage ends. One spouse may wish to sell it to the other, for various reasons. In some cases, the best decision may be to flat-out dissolve the partnership and the business. How much does it mean to you? Is it one of the reasons you are getting divorced because, though highly successful, it's been a source of conflict?

We started a wonderful restaurant together-can I keep it?

Here are some questions to ask yourself, whether you're in the middle of a divorce or just thinking about starting divorce proceedings.

1. How will I value the business? How can we put a price on something we've worked so hard for?

2. I started the business and I think I care about it a lot more than my spouse, but am I willing and able to buy out my partner and soon-to-be ex? What if we only succeeded because we're a team?

3. One way to keep the business would be to give up other major assets. What's more important to me? The business or the house...or something else? Stocks, real estate and retirement funds can also be on the table, right? Will my spouse accept that kind of trade?

4. I don't think I can make it financially on my own, but am I willing to sell part of my share in the business or look for investors to replace my spouse's contributions? What if I can convince my ex-spouse to let me pay over time, not all at once--is that an option?

5. Will it be too painful to continue the business without my ex in the picture? Can I handle it? There are a lot of memories in this place. What if my emotions get the best of me?

There are many more questions to consider as you head into a time of transition. You don't have to try to figure it all out on your own. A lawyer can help you approach your own specific situation and consider all the options available to you as a business owner. 

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