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Ugly Breakup The ravages of divorce can wreck your business. Here's how to avoid financial disaster.

Think the hit you took in the market last year was bad? How about this for a sucker punch: Just as your business starts picking up, you get a love letter from your spouse's attorney telling you that your marriage is over. Depending on what the judge decides, you may have to kiss your house, your 401(k) plan and even your company goodbye.

For many entrepreneurs, this kind of heartbreak can become all too real. And whether you own 100 percent of your business or your unhappy spouse is also your business partner, you may find yourself having to sell assets or take on debt to break up the company you worked so hard to build. Even after the pain of the divorce subsides, it may take years to dig out of this financial hole.

Let's face it: It's not easy to be married to an entrepreneur. While stories abound of scheming business owners who hide money in offshore accounts so that their long-suffering spouses will get little or nothing, it's often the hard-working entrepreneur who gets the shaft. Unlike a house or a stock portfolio that can be liquidated within weeks or months, most businesses are small, privately held and not worth much to anyone except their owner. As a result, divorcing couples often bring in an appraiser to value the business, an exercise that can cost as much as $30,000 and leave both spouses without much to show for it.

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