In owners' divorces, businesses can become part of the fight

In this Oct. 4, 2019, photo attorney Christopher Hildebrand poses for a photo his office in Scottsdale, Ariz. Hildebrand was divorced and had to expand his practice from himself to a seven-lawyer firm to pay his spouse her settlement, alimony and child support. He calls the decade after his divorce the longest 10 years of his life because of the amount of work he had to do. (AP Photo/Matt York)

When one of Zach Hendrix's three business partners said he was getting divorced, sympathy turned into shock as everyone realized that a soon-to-be ex-wife could become a co-owner.

"Because we failed to forecast this life event happening we were now scrambling for our best solution," says Hendrix, co-owner of GreenPal, a business that uses an app and website to help homeowners find lawn care companies.

When a small business owner divorces, the company can become part of a property fight; the battle can end with owners losing all or part of their businesses. Or, they or the company may be forced to take on debt to prevent an ex from sharing ownership. Even when ownership isn't at stake, the rancor and uncertainty around a divorce can take a toll on a company - owners may be distracted and unable to focus on what the business needs.