Ron Shulman is the founder of the Shulman Law Firm, an exclusive family law practice focused on resolution and ensuring their clients are prepared to confidently move on with their lives.
The beginning of a new year always signifies change, but with change come challenges. A large majority of unhappy couples decide to begin the divorce process after the holidays, and in January, 2016, the number of divorce inquiries to our office was double the monthly average. In the same month the year before, we received almost triple the usual number of inquiries.
The statistics in this country tell us that 41 per cent of people will find themselves having to go through a separation or divorce at some point in their life. This is never easy on people emotionally and in fact is second only to the death of a spouse in terms of stressful life events. But an important aspect that cannot be overlooked is that divorce can seep into people's professional lives and significantly affect their careers.
You've worked hard to build and develop your career. Don't let an emotional hardship such as divorce negatively affect your job performance or, worse, lead to job loss.
Below are tips we share with our clients to help them navigate the challenges of a divorce, specifically when dealing with work and career issues:
1. Let HR know what's going on
If your divorce is complex or acrimonious and you think (or know) that you will be in court, it's a good idea to speak with your human resources manager to let him or her know that you will need time off. While most court dates are scheduled well in advance, urgent motions can arise very suddenly. You may also require pension and benefit information, and the earlier you can let HR know you will need this information, the better.
2. Find out what resources are available to help you cope
If you are having trouble staying focused at work, find out if it is possible to take a short leave of absence or work from home a few days each week. Family law counselling is often available through an employee benefits plan, and there are cost-effective options if you don't have coverage. You won't be of much use to your company or co-workers if you are consumed by your divorce.
3. Maintain consistency and routine in the workplace
Remember that this is not the place to vent to your co-workers about how much you dislike your ex. Make sure there is a clear divide between your professional and personal lives. Some people find that keeping a familiar work routine provides a bit of stability during an unstable time.
4. Don't quit your job or scale back for the purposes of reducing support
If you have a job that you enjoy, don't attempt to sabotage it in order to pay your ex less spousal or child support. A judge may see through this and impute income for support purposes. Ultimately, the benefits just do not outweigh the costs.
If children are involved and you have shared custody (an arrangement for both parents to share the amount of time with their children over the course of the year), single parenting provides opportunities for more time reading and increasing industry knowledge related to your career. Furthering your career can be a positive focus at a difficult time.
For employers with valuable employees, knowing how to offer support during emotional hardships such as divorce can be an asset to the business. Having support mechanisms in place or a list of referrals for counselling will be of great benefit. This leads to stronger relationships with employees, shows empathy and improves retention.
As a family law firm, our role is to assist our clients to look past the emotional hardship and pain that inevitably flows from a separation. Retaining a lawyer can very often relieve some of the stress that arises by providing an objective view.
Divorce is a very difficult process for anyone, but having a plan ensures you maintain some level of control. It also ensures a much better chance for you to move on and confidently enjoy the next stage of your life. Keeping your career on track during this process is a key part of a balanced life.
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