If you’ve been out of the workforce for awhile, it can be incredibly scary to think about having to find a job. For one thing, you probably made that decision (along with your husband) in an effort to promote the needs of the family, and you probably still that’s where your priorities lie. It’s hard to imagine going back to work when the work that you stopped working full time to do hasn’t been satisfactorily finished. Still, what choices do you have?
In Virginia, child and spousal support figures are not overly generous, and many women find that they can’t afford to make the same choices after the divorce that they were making prior to it. After all, the same income now has to go towards supporting two separate households, so it’s not difficult to imagine that there’s less to go around. And, if there’s less to go around, you have to make different choices in order to stay above water.
Of course, it’s not as easy as updating that resume and polishing up your old cover letter. The longer you’ve been out of the workforce, the less relevant your skills. In the age of technology, things are changing so rapidly that our skills are out-of-date much more quickly than at any other point in history. Twenty years ago, “googling” wasn’t a verb!
Before you have a panic attack, though, remember that the choices you made regarding career and family were made jointly, and your soon-to-be ex shares responsibility for them as much as you. Together, the two of you made choices about how you wanted to raise your children and run your household. Now, things are changing, and your agreement is changing, too, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be responsible for all of the resulting financial and professional consequences.
If you’re interested in returning to school or other technical training, you might want to consider asking the court (or asking your attorney to including a provision in your separation agreement) for rehabilitative support. Rehabilitative support is support that you receive for a specific period of time and helps you get the training you need to get a job. Instead of receiving spousal support just because you earn less than your husband, rehabilitative support is designed to help you get back on your feet and, eventually, become self-supporting. Sometimes, because of the nature of this kind of support, judges are willing to make larger awards. You can see the appeal: judges would normally rather help a person who is committed to helping herself than a person who insists that she deserves to receive support (and possibly permanent support) just because of the circumstances of her marriage warrant it. The emphasis on professional development makes this kind of support appealing.
Remember, too, that you can be creative with your spousal support. Ask for spousal support that starts out at a higher level, and then gradually reduces over time as you get on your feet. Ask for a lump sum now, rather than dragging it out. Ask for it however you think it will serve your needs best, and emphasize to your husband, your attorney and the judge that the support you require is to help you get back on your feet professionally, so that you can provide for yourself and your children.