Marriage and Business: The Ultimate Balancing Act

Forget flowers, chocolate or even romance this Valentine's Day. A new report shows the holiday gets people in the mood for divorce, not love.

Legal advice website sees an uptick of about 40% in searches, inquiries and contacting of its lawyers around cupid’s day, a phenomenon it has dubbed the "Valentine's Effect."

Gabrielle Clemens, author, lawyer and divorce planner, said the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day and right bring in a spike in divorce inquiries. Clemens said the uptick in separations is likely due to people acting on New Year's resolutions, and because people are done celebrating the holiday season and kids are back on track in school.

"Divorce attorneys see people kicking the tires on their marriages," she said. "This year, I see it more than ever. As the economy gets better, people are more comfortable separating from their spouse."

Married couples who are also business owners together face unique challenges in the divorce process. The complexity of both a business and marriage dissolving all depends on how the company is structured, according to Clemens. If the business is structured as a 50-50 partnership, assets would be split down the middle. If the business is an LLC, one partner can buy the other's share, or keep them on the receiving end of an income stream.

"Typically what would happen in any family business, if one person has more value in the business or is more talented while the other is in a support capacity, the person in a weaker position has to exit," she said. "This all depends on how the business is structured."

Couples are getting more realistic when entering into business partnerships, Clemens said, and if they aren't—they need to be.

"You lose sight of where the business ends and the personal relationships start," she said. "You need to have a prenup agreement for the business just like you would for a marriage. It's a prescribed exit strategy, and it's becoming more popular and more equitable."

Couples should think about how much money they are investing in their business and how they will get this money back in the event that the partnership dissolves, Clemens said, and get the plan in writing.

Randy Rubin, 62, has been married to her husband Craig, 65, for 19 years—and the couple signed a prenuptial agreement before starting their business in 1993.

The Rubins started Crypton, a textile company, and have found ways to make their company a success over nearly two decades of partnership at home and work.

Their agreement has their business as a 50-50 partnership and the business will be split evenly. In the event their marriage or business dissolves, they leave with what they came into it with.

"Craig and I are very much a unit or couple, and people don’t really promote that," in their business, Randy said. "The business sees us as a couple, and this has 'charmed' people and it validates us to each other more."

The Rubins also share an office, something that is not always smooth sailing Randy admitted, but something she recommended to husband and wife business teams.

"It keeps us both informed on what we are doing so at the end of the day I don't have to say, 'This is what I am doing,'" she said. "We give each other courage. What I don't do well, he does well and vice versa."

Randy knows how much is at stake considering she started her business with her husband. If she loses one, the other will likely follow suit.

"You go in thinking it will be the perfect thing, any partnership you begin," she said. "The downside [of working with your spouse] is that you put all of your eggs in one basket, so you have doubled the risk."