By Dr. Ken Manges, Ph.D. | Forensic Psychologist
Divorce represents a major life transition with long-term emotional and financial consequences for all parties involved. In many cases, the careers and work lives of the spouses are significantly altered. Career adjustments are often necessary, as each spouse becomes the head of his/her own household. Spouses may be forced to reenter the workplace or reposition their careers after experiencing divorce.
Reentering the workforce after a significant time away or entering the workforce for the first time can be a challenging experience. This type of transition presents a number of issues and obstacles. Before reentry, the spouse must first determine his/her marketability. He/she must evaluate his/her skills, abilities, experience, and training to determine where he/she fits in today’s job market. Sometimes, additional training, education, or certification may be necessary to bring the spouse up to the current standard.
In our culture, women are typically the most affected by reentry transition, especially if they had originally elected to stay home to rear children. Many homemakers who are trying to reenter the workforce may be unfamiliar with how to promote their skills aggressively. Not to say that they lack skills, but that they may misperceive their marketability. Some may adopt the false impression that they haven’t acquired applicable skills or experience since their last paid job. Others may need some type of continuing education in order to compete in the job market.
Repositioning a career can be equally as challenging as reentering the workforce. Many spouses find themselves taking on additional parental responsibilities following a divorce. These responsibilities can affect the paths their careers take. For instance, a spouse may choose not to relocate in order to remain close to his/her children or he/she may turn down a promotion if it requires a great deal of travel or extended work hours. Another spouse may choose to transition into a completely new career in order to be more available for his/her children. He/she may choose to change professions entirely, take a new position within the same industry, or find a similar position in a new field.
As spouses reenter the workforce or reposition their careers, they may make decisions based on “family-friendly” companies rather than their best-earning opportunity. In single, as well as two-income households, parents may seek businesses willing to provide certain accommodations. Whether or not these accommodations or “flexible work arrangements” (FWAs) are a part of any spousal support decision is a point for negotiation. Such opportunities are available but can be difficult to find. These arrangements are a private agreement between the employer and employee and are not covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Alternative Work Arrangements: Includes job sharing and part-time employment
- Company Day Care Centers: Company sponsored childcare either on-site or nearby
- Flextime: Alternative work hours
- Telecommuting: Home office option
- Compressed Workweek: Full week’s work completed in less than 5 days
- Flexible Leave: Longer maternity leave, accrued leave time used at employee’s discretion
Whether spouses are reentering the workforce or repositioning their careers, they are undergoing a major life transition with many emotional and financial implications. If you are involved in a case concerning spousal support, you may want to consider enlisting the services of a forensic psychologist or vocational rehabilitation consultant. Experts familiar with this type of evaluation can: establish the validity of self-proclaimed needs; itemize training needs, costs, and duration to reenter the workforce; determine expected compensation for specific career choices; and identify the spouse’s work life potential.
The following web sites provide helpful information regarding Career Transitions: