Businesses are relationship property so need to be shared in a separation. Photo / 123RF

Q: My partner and I are separating after nine years together and are not on good terms right now. I have my own business which I started seven years ago. My partner had his own career but was made redundant three years ago. Since then, we have worked together in the business. My partner has been involved in the administrative side of the business, while I have been client-facing. He wants access to all the client files. I am very uncomfortable with this, mainly because confidentiality of my client’s files is critical, and I don’t trust my partner right now. My partner also enjoys the freedom of being self-employed and wants to continue in the business. I am not sure how to go about this, but I do not see that we can continue. How do couples normally handle this process?

I know that our financial situation will be more difficult when we are living apart, so I’ve been trying to cut down on expenses. However, I feel my partner is doing the opposite. For example, he is insisting on continuing with a very expensive leased vehicle, which I think is unreasonable. Is there anything I can do?

Your business

You are correct in saying you need to share your business with your partner. It is part of your relationship property and therefore he is entitled to an equal share of the business.

Valuing the business

There are several ways to value a business. You could each appoint your own valuer and negotiate the final amount using these values as a starting point.

Another option is to get a joint valuation, where you both agree on a valuer to carry out the valuation. This will be less disruptive to the business as you only need to go through the valuation process with one valuer and you can share the cost. If one of you doesn’t agree with the valuation, that person can obtain another valuation, but they would need to cover the cost themselves.

Some couples avoid the valuation process altogether and agree on an amount, perhaps based on the business’ last set of financial statements and advice from their accountant.

Continue reading this article on the NZ Herald.