My Ex-Wife, My Business Partner

Last Updated Jul 30, 2009 7:45 PM EDT

Dear Stanley,

I'm 65 and am 50 percent owner of a retail grocery store. The other owner is my ex-wife. Most of my net worth is tied up in the business. The other owner will not buy me out, won't sell her interest nor consider selling to a third party because she loves the business. Sentiment has so far prevented me from getting nasty, but can you suggest tactics that I might use should it come to that?

Signed,

Chained to My Ex

Dear Poor Bastard,

Wow, that really stinks. I can't see the keyboard because I'm so misted up. What a revolting situation!

I'm sorry. I got sort of carried away there. It's hard enough to get a divorce. But to actually get one and then STILL to be forced to work every day with your former spouse is a fate almost too difficult to bear. It's obvious to me that your ex may have been forced to grant you the marriage-ending document you sought but that she has no intention of letting you pursue and independent existence. In the name of all that's sacred to the human spirit, you must escape!

I'm sorry. I sort of got carried away again. Here's my dispassionate reading on the situation. You are 50 percent owner in that store. I seriously doubt that there is a document stating that you do not have the right to dispose of your 50 percent as you see fit. That's what it means to own 50 percent of something. You own it. You can sell it. The most you owe your ex is the right of first refusal on the property. So offer it again. Tell her that if she refuses, you will be selling it to somebody else. Obviously, you won't be getting a great price if the other owner is against it, but even if you are forced to take a little less to make the deal, I personally would do it. I know people who pay their former spouse thousands of dollars a month of support and still think that every penny is worth it. You are only 65 years old. That means if you don't die of aggravation, you just might have another couple of decades on this planet. Why not spend them the way you want to? Anything less would be a crime.

In order to do this, however, you're going to need a good lawyer. It's amazing what an aggressive attorney with no feelings involved can get done in this kind of situation. On the contrary side, you might want to get together with your ex and reprise the whole Moses vs. Pharoah "let my people go" scenario. That sometimes works, too. But whatever you do, my friend, get the heck out of that store, doing whatever it takes to do so. In the end, you'll have nobody to blame but yourself if you don't.