You may have kept your working life separate from your home life, but when love breaks down the two could come into costly and unstoppable collision. Your spouse may have never even set foot on your business premises, but if you split they could still claim up to half its assets.
And the bad news for the entrepreneur is that the result of some legal cases, notably Lambert v Lambert, have seen the pendulum swing in favour of the spouse. Entrepreneur Harry Lambert built up family wealth worth £20.2m from his freesheet newspaper business Adscene. When he split from his wife Shan Elizabeth after 23 years of marriage she claimed half of those assets, even though Harry was the driving force behind the business.
In October 2001 a judge ruled that she should receive 37%, totalling a cool £7.5m. But a year later the Court of Appeal overturned this and ordered a straight split down the middle, declaring it was intrinsically wrong to view the breadwinner as making a greater contribution than the homemaker, because she may have sacrificed their own career.
The divorce courts are a lottery, and when your business is involved the stakes are higher and the odds even harder to call. The final settlement depends on a series of factors, including the length of your marriage, your contribution to the business, the presence of children, future case law and the whim of a judge. Marriage shaky? Feeling nervous? You should be.
It could be you
Every year tens of thousands of married couples split, according to the Office of National Statistics. There are now more than 5m divorced people in the UK, the highest number in Europe. Four out of 10 married couples will eventually part.
As people marry later, the average age for divorce has crept up to 42 years for men and 39 years for women – with their marriages lasting an average 11 years. Advisory service Relate says long working hours are a growing source of marital discord, which is bad news for hard-working entrepreneurs.
Around seven out of 10 divorces are among first-time couples, but this percentage is falling as the number of second and third marriages grows. If you have been previously divorced, it is more likely any future marriage will fail. Marrying young also makes divorce more likely.
These are dismal figures but they don't deter the 250,000 couples who put their trust in this institution every year.
One in six people now move in with their partner rather than marry. The average couple cohabits for just over three years, with six out of 10 then getting married. But people who live together are nine times more likely to break up than married couples.
Breaking up is hard to do, and it is also expensive. The average divorcing couple faces a £13,000 bill in the first year alone, or £6,525 each, according to new research from Norwich Union. More than one in three are forced to sell their own home to cover the cost of splitting up, and maintenance payments, legal fees and childcare costs all add to the bill. This figure could be much, much higher for entrepreneurs.