How to divorce when you run a family business together

Divorce can be difficult no matter the circumstances but when you run a family business together, there are even more complications. It’s important to consider what are the best options for you and your family business if your marriage comes to an end.

There are many compelling reasons for seeking legal advice early when couples make the decision to divorce and this is particularly true when business interests are involved.

Find common ground

It may be possible, with support from your solicitor, to reach an amicable resolution covering how the business relationship will be resolved. Where possible and with careful negotiation, this is often the best way forward. We prefer, where possible, to agree a settlement out of court because the Judges have a wide range of discretion and the outcome can be unpredictable.  It is far better to have a negotiated settlement which both parties know will work for them. In some cases, ex couples decide to continue to run the family business together and are able to maintain a good working relationship. This is not always possible, of course, and there are other options when deciding on the future of the business.

Split the assets

Without previous legal documentations such as a pre or post nuptial agreement, the starting point in divorce proceedings is to look at whether an equal split of assets is fair. An equal split is not inevitable though. We will always discuss your individual circumstances with you to try and achieve the best possible outcome. If one partner has had a more active role in the business, this can lead to further issues.  The courts may not, for example, grant a bigger share because you were the person who established or spent more time building up the business. Any agreements that have been previously drawn up specifying who owns what shares and documenting loans, for example, could play an important part in any negotiations or proceedings.

Buy out

If the family business is to be split, one option might be to buy out your ex partner’s share. One partner may retain ownership and pay the other spousal maintenance, or borrowings could be used to make a lump sum payment. There are a number of possibilities and pitfalls and we would urge you to make an appointment to come and see us so that we can guide you through the process.

We would always advise, if you co-own a business with your spouse, to have precise legal documentation drawn up so that in the event of a divorce it is easier to achieve a fair settlement that reflects the contribution both partners have made.


Spousal Maintenance – How Long Can a Wife Expect to Be Financially Supported by her Ex Husband?

A husband who is making regular spousal maintenance payments to his wife will understandably question why he is still expected to pay her regular amounts of money when she has moved a new partner in and no longer seems to be having to manage on her own.

What is spousal maintenance?  

Spousal maintenance is a regular sum of money that is agreed as part of a financial settlement between divorcing parties when one partner has no income or has much lower earnings than the other.

In some cases the agreement will involve regular payments for a set period of time, to give the other partner time to get on their feet financially and become self-supporting. There are also situations where the arrangement is left open, for example when a wife has given up her career to bring up children and is now at a disadvantage on the labour market and unlikely to be able to support herself.

What happens to spousal maintenance when the recipient remarries or starts cohabiting?

Spousal maintenance stops once the recipient remarries. However, if the recipient is cohabiting with a new partner it does not automatically mean that spousal maintenance will no longer be paid.

If you are paying spousal maintenance and believe that your ex-spouse’s financial circumstances have changed as a result of a new partner sharing the expenses, you can apply to the courts for a reassessment. This also applies if your own circumstances change and you are struggling to keep up with payments.

As well as being required to establish that your ex-wife and her new partner are actually living together under the same roof, you will also need to demonstrate that it has had an impact on her personal circumstances and that she no longer requires the level of financial support she once did. Your ex-wife may claim that the new relationship is in its early stages and might not last, or that her new partner cannot afford to support her. However, if the new partner is contributing to household expenses you may be able to argue that the financial situation upon which the original agreement was based is no longer valid.

To find out more about spousal maintenance and how to request a reassessment due to changes in circumstances, contact Harrogate Family Law on 01423 594 680.


Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.



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