If you’ve taken a break from your career to raise children, you should assess your prospects before the divorce is final.
After settling her divorce with another law firm, a new client came to me with custody and support issues that arose afterward. Trained as a registered nurse, she had not worked since the early ’90s, when she got married and started raising children as a stay-at-home mom, comfortable in the security of her husband’s income.
Because my client had assumed she could easily find a new job as a nurse, she had not fully pursued all the financial aspects of her divorce settlement. She got tired of the fighting, and settled for less that she was entitled under New York state statute, because she made two faulty assumptions: (1) that she had all the information she needed about her husband’s finances (she didn’t), and (2) that she would seamlessly pick up her nursing career where she left off, with an inflation-adjusted income similar to what she had earned in the ’90s.
But she was wrong. She found out that, all these years later, she needed more education and training to get a full-time job of any kind in the nursing field; the only job she could find was as a substitute school nurse. The failure to plan for the cost of education or retraining, or for being out of work much longer than anticipated, has meant the distributive award she received in the initial settlement is woefully insufficient to cover her living expenses.
If you were not an equal or leading breadwinner in your marriage, and especially if you’ve been laid off or otherwise out of the full-time workforce for a while, don’t make the mistake of assuming the job market will welcome you back in with open arms and offer you the income you think you deserve. Among the obstacles you may face: competition from job candidates with no gaps in their resumes; a need for education or training to bring you up to speed in your field; and age discrimination from employers who subtly favor younger employees either for their new-economy skills or because they simply cost less.
You may not want to make your divorce unduly contentious or bleed your spouse dry, but you need to know what you can rightfully claim in a settlement, and ask for it if you’re going to be the one struggling at first. Hopefully there will be better times ahead, and you and your ex can adjust accordingly.