Working while Divorcing—Forward-thinking employers include divorce support in employee benefits packages

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The ending of a marriage is one of the most challenging events a human being can go through. The split affects every area of your life—family, finances, friendships, and plans. Divorce is associated with stress levels comparable to the death of a spouse or loved one. The life-changing event profoundly impacts physical and mental health, and research demonstrates it typically takes a person two years to return to pre-divorce levels of mental/emotional well-being.

In the United States, 1.5 million people undergo marital dissolution every year. More than 40% of first marriages end in divorce, even higher for second (67%) and third (74%) marriages.

Consider this: one-third of Americans in their prime working years (25-65) experience divorce.

And yet, until recently, very little research has specifically examined the impact of separation and divorce on people’s jobs and careers.

A June article in Forbes Magazine, Divorce Coaches: The Wellness Benefit That Can Save Employers Billions, referenced a landmark 1996 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, which revealed that over $6 billion is “lost by American businesses due to decreased productivity stemming from marriage and relationship difficulties.”

But as Connie R. Wanberg, Borbala Csillag, and Michelle K. Duffy argue in After the Break-up: How divorcing affects individuals at Work, a recent article for Personnel Psychology, “Investigations of crisis and stressful life events are insufficiently integrated into research on the work-family interface.” Studies about the impact of divorce, the authors say, have primarily been conducted by “clinical, health, and social psychologists.” When work-life issues entered the equation, research mainly focused on the economic impact of divorce on business.

What’s been lacking, they argue, is a more holistic exploration of “how the multitude of factors involved in the divorce process may affect individuals more broadly at work”—and what we can do about it that will benefit both employee and employer.

That’s starting to change.

The entire work landscape is shifting, and with it, employee needs and expectations.

Numerous factors have converged to underscore the importance of recognizing divorce’s impact on workers and providing support.

First, the Covid-19 crisis exacerbated and raised awareness about mental health issues. The pressures of lockdown—working from home while juggling childcare and schooling, financial insecurity, being on-the-clock round-the-clock, getting used to new technology tools, and rampant employee burnout—sparked a long-overdue conversation about workplace stress, our need for better balance, and the reality that we cannot classify: holistic health is vital to a thriving workforce and a successful workplace. Furthermore, the divorce rate itself increased in the wake of the pandemic.

It’s become increasingly clear that caring for the whole person is vital to employee satisfaction, engagement, retention, and business success. Corporations are just beginning to realize that divorce support may be a crucial piece of the puzzle.

How divorce benefits help employees and employer

Divorce is not only mentally and emotionally draining, the logistics, from paperwork to meetings and court dates, are laborious and time-consuming. The financial pressures can be overwhelming.

A recent survey conducted by Good Housekeeping in partnership with SupportPay (a co-parenting platform to manage child support, payments, etc.) found that employees involved in a divorce process experience:

  • More than a year of lost productivity (81%)
  • Increased absences from work (73%)
  • Decline in job performance (62%)
  • Decrease in health and financial well-being (67%)

From the employer’s perspective, not only is lower productivity costly to the company, team members’ decreased well-being can raise healthcare costs and insurance premiums. Employees may also be more likely to request a raise during a difficult divorce; 10% quit their job to seek other opportunities, and the company faces replacement costs of 150%.

While it may seem evident that divorce benefits can benefit everyone when surveyed, less than half of employees that went through a divorce reported feeling supported at work.

In September 2022, publishing company Hearst launched a divorce benefits program for its 12,000 employees, including the SupportPay platform, therapy sessions, and legal assistance.

Although including a divorce benefit package is yet to be standard practice, it could quickly become the expectation.

A well-rounded approach may include the following:

  • Extra paid time off and/or flexible working arrangements to accommodate the many demands of the divorce process
  • Professional services, such as a divorce coach, to provide emotional support and logistical assistance to employees; smooth the process (document preparation, co-parenting plans, financial strategy, etc.)
  • Training for HR and executives (divorce sensitivity and awareness)

The caring and experienced family attorneys at SFLG understand that divorce affects every area of your life. We can help you navigate the legal aspects of your dissolution and will work with you to ensure you have all the professional support you need.

By Debra Schoenberg


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Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., recognizes that family law matters involve complex, sensitive issues that can have a lasting impact on you, your family, your finances and your future.

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100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies In the Bay Area San Francisco Business Times
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California Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS) State Bar of California
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Expertise Best Divorce Lawyers in Concord 2020
2018 Expertise Best Divorce Lawyers in San Francisco
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