Your Business After Divorce

Promise to love, honor and cherish your business--even if you share it with your ex-spouse.

In "Your Business," you read about married couples running businesses together. Well, things don't always work out. In this column, you'll read about divorced couples operating businesses together. Although most experts agree the chances of a husband-and-wife-owned-and-operated business remaining intact after a divorce are unlikely, the events leading up to each divorce are different. And some couples do make it work.

"[It's] not uncommon," qualifies Ivan Lansberg, a family business consultant in New Haven, Connecticut. This is especially true if motivation and trust are present.

First, you need to have, or think you're going to have, a successful business. It serves as the motivation to hammer out a working relationship. "Nobody wants a successful asset to slip away," says Kay Wakefield, a partner in the Portland, Oregon, law firm Wakefield McCobb P.C.

For Debi Davis, founder of Fit America, an herbal supplement weight-loss company based in Deerfield Beach, Florida, and her former husband, Byron Davis, the company's CEO, it was a question of staying together to build the company. "We were entrepreneurs who just didn't want jobs elsewhere," says Debi.

Second, "both husband and wife have to have a high degree of trust in each other's competence, character and commitment to the business," says Joseph Paul, a family business consultant in Portland, Oregon.

It was that trust that prompted Juanita Ellis to call her former husband, Steffano Korper-despite their divorce-and ask him if he wanted to join her as a developer and co-founder of The E-Commerce Program, a training program for people interested in doing business over the Internet. "We had worked so well on networking technology programs when we were married and teaching at the University of Maryland," Ellis says, "that I thought, 'Why not partner up with someone I trust and who wants what I want?'"

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This article was originally published in the April 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Business After Divorce.

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