It’s the question all of America is asking: What will happen to Brangelina’s grapes?

OK, maybe not, but small-business owners might be curious to find out what the fate of the French winery Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie own together will be now that Jolie has filed for divorce.

While we don’t yet know exactly what will happen with the vineyard, the latest celebrity news does bring up an intriguing question: What happens when people who are partners in both business and marriage divorce? When marriages crumble, as Angelina and Brad’s seems to have, couples do have several options for keeping their joint businesses alive.

But if the famous couple’s fate teaches us any sort of lesson, it should be that anybody thinking about going into business with a spouse should consider that decision very carefully. Relationships are fragile and businesses even more so. Combining the two can be dangerous for both the relationship and the business.

Let’s Stay Together

One option divorcing couples have is to keep running their business jointly. It does happen; some couples find ways to put their personal differences aside and run businesses together even after they split.

Doing that requires embracing the notion that working together is “nothing personal, just business” on a daily basis. It can be emotionally wrenching, but it can also make financial sense if the business is already successful.

Breaking up Is (not Always) Hard to Do

Another option for splitting couples is to split the business. If there is a natural fault line in the operation—for instance, if it operates in two distinct geographies or offers two or more different products or services—owners can carve up the business based on a natural division.

Splitting a business doesn’t have to be a financial disaster. It can actually help each individual in a couple focus more keenly on what he or she enjoys about running the business, leading to sharper execution and better results.

The Winner Takes It All

Of course, another path for divorcing couples is for one person to simply sell out to the other. That’s often the case when one member of the couple was more dedicated to running the business in the first place.

In fact, Pitt himself took over sole ownership of Plan B studios after he and ex-wife—and former Plan B business partner—Jennifer Aniston split a decade ago.

Think It Over

Brad and Angelina’s fate should serve as a stern reminder that running a business and being married at the same time is a difficult task even for the most committed of couples. Both marriage and business ownership require constant work.

When a spouse is also a business partner, getting away from work can be nearly impossible. What do married business partners talk about at the dinner table? Probably the business—which can lead quickly to burnout on both the work and home fronts.

It’s good idea for couples who go into business together to have one partner run the business and the other keep his or her “day job” in order to keep bringing in guaranteed revenue and benefits. Fighting over money is one of the leading causes of divorce, anyway, and trying to run a business on shoestring budgets—both business and personal—is likely to put a lot of strain on a marriage.

Let Love Rule

Ultimately, for married couples, going into business together tends to be a bad idea. Combining the all-consuming stress of running a business with the constant work of staying happily married tends to be beyond most people’s capabilities. Couples who want to avoid Brangelina’s fate should probably stick to living together but not necessarily working together.

BusinessTown.com staff