Even small businesses are complex entities, and when they are intertwined with a marriage, a split may dredge up layers of history and conflict. In any partnership, it is likely that there have been moments of tension, struggles for power, and disagreements. It is important to diffuse that pent-up tension and try to start a new beginning with the collaborative divorce process.

When negotiating what to do with a family business in the collaborative divorce process, it’s crucial that both parties feel valued and safe. A life change of that magnitude is frightening — it’s a step into the unknown — and if it’s a step in a wrong direction, the negotiations can be long, drawn-out, and messy. It’s crucial that the tone is set from the start or else things can quickly become adversarial.  Listening and empathizing with both parties creates that safe space.

But how to set the tone?

In the collaborative divorce process, the attorneys make it clear, through careful language and demeanor, that neither of them means harm to the other party. It’s true that the attorneys’ primary objective is to achieve a settlement that meets the needs and interests of her client, and, with the collaborative process, that settlement must be mutual. Attorneys take both parties’ needs and interests into account when helping find solutions.

Creating a space that allows for open sharing, while keeping an eye focused on the future, rather than dwelling in the past, can help allow for the split of a business with less fear and antipathy.