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Until They Divorce?

By Family GovernanceSeptember, 2022March 18th, 20242 min read
Family Business Until They Divorce

You join a family through birth or marriage, and leave it through death or divorce. But if by divorce, it may not be possible to fully “leave”, and the process itself can be traumatic for a wide stakeholder group.

A significant focus of estate planning for families is about ensuring that the family assets are “protected” in the event of a divorce. But how about the time until a couple divorces, i.e. the time they are actually married? That time is anything from a day until forever, and yet so much about marriage and married-ins in wealthy families is fixated on a possible future scenario.

As much as we want to engineer a “clean separation” in the case of a divorce, we should seek to facilitate a “clean togetherness” for the duration of the marriage. Children-in-law share a bed with our children, and are the parents of (and pass genetic material to) our grandchildren. Even if they are not allowed “at the table” for family meetings, they are often there by proxy.

The challenge is to frame family policies that relate to marriage in positive terms. The role of in-law children can be an opportunity, not just a risk. If only viewed as a risk, that can be a missed opportunity.

Remember: families start with a partnership of two (who themselves come from different families).

Consider This: How are your family’s policies regarding marriage framed? How are your feelings about married-ins influenced by yours or the family’s previous experience with divorce? Are married-ins ever told “you can’t do [X] because you might divorce?”

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