Should I get a job after my divorce?

There comes a point in a lot of divorces where women have a troubling realization: at some point, they will probably have to get a job. If they already have a job, they may have to start working more, or find a better-paying position in the same field. If, on the other hand, they have stayed at home, they may have to start from scratch—sometimes, even, going back to school.

It’s a really scary thought for a lot of women, because it’s such a dramatic departure from the way things were during the marriage. You and your husband may have had an agreement that you’d stay at home or work part time while your kids were young, but all bets are off now.

There will be less money now than you had before, because you’re taking the money that the two of you earned together, and you’re maintaining two separate households. Not only that, but if you were the lesser wage earner, you’ll take away what you make, whatever support is awarded to you (if you are entitled to receive support), and whatever else you may receive as a result of your property distribution. Your husband, on the other hand, may have to pay support (if you qualify for spousal support or have minor children), but he will still have the benefit of his greater earnings. And there are other benefits, too—if he has been the primary breadwinner, he probably carries the health insurance for the family. Once you’re divorced, he won’t be able to maintain you on his insurance any longer. He will also get other benefits from his employer, like contribution matching on his 401(k), and after you’ve separated his contributions are his separate property.

Your attorney will work diligently on your case to make sure you get the best possible deal for your particular situation, but there are some problems that even the best attorney can’t solve. We can’t re-write the child support guidelines to make it more generous, and we can’t make health insurance companies offer health insurance to employees for their ex-wives.

I don’t say this to scare you; I say it to help give you realistic expectations. Not everything can go on the same way as before, with little to no disruption to your day-to-day life. You’ll have to think about these things, sooner rather than later, and come up with a plan for how to deal with the challenges as they present themselves. Regardless of your age or level of education, you may be almost forced to make a different decision about employment than you would have had to make if you and your husband stayed married.

If you find yourself in a tough spot, you may have to re-enter the workforce, or step it up a little to help supplement what you’re getting from your divorce.

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