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Married employers who don't stay together may still pay together

In Texas and across the country, there are married couples who run a business together. But just as with any other marriage, these co-workers can have relationship problems that lead to divorce. When this happens, the spouses usually find themselves at a crossroads: Should they go their separate ways both personally and professionally?

The answer is never an easy one. It often depends on the nature of the business and the divorce. Spouses who have grown to dislike and disrespect each other may need to call it quits at home and the office. But in cases where a couple has simply grown apart personally but can maintain a professional respect for each other, continuing to work together is often a workable plan.

A Census Bureau estimate in 2007 found that roughly 3.7 million businesses are headed by married couples. Taking into account the average divorce rate, not all of these business partners live happily ever after -- at least not with each other. Many have chosen to divorce while continuing to see each other at the office day in and day out. How do they rise above their personal differences? By focusing on their combined strengths, say those who have made it work.

In addition to mutual respect, working together after divorce requires open communication. Spouses with raw emotions often benefit from joint therapy sessions, which can help them separate business from displeasure at home. They may need to retrain themselves to focus on their professional relationship without delving into the problems that ended their marriage.

Divorcing business partners should also communicate the transition with their employees. Particularly in smaller businesses, workers may sense friction between their bosses and worry about what it means for the company and their own jobs. By sitting down with employees and talking about the breakup -- much as divorcing parents do with their children -- couples can ease the tension around the office and ensure that the business continues to run smoothly.

Source: The New York Times, "When Couples Divorce but Still Run a Business Together," Brian Borzykowski, Dec. 5, 2012

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