oving on after the heartbreak of divorce can feel monumental. While there are many elements to starting over after divorce, some of the most critical have to do with work and money.
If you want your new life to focus less on divorce recovery and more on the great things around the corner, there are a few steps you can take to set yourself up for career and financial success.
In this article, we'll discuss how to:
No matter how long you were married, your finances are likely to change post-divorce. You may have combined assets and responsibilities with your former spouse, but now that the divorce papers are signed, you're ready to move forward independently.
Good money management as a newly divorced person begins with awareness of your situation. Perhaps your finances looked different — and felt temporary — throughout the divorce process. It's easy to be unaware of your financial reality when things become more permanent.
If you're not sure what to look at to figure out where you stand, consider these essential elements of a monetary self-assessment:
The goal of this initial review is to understand your financial status, not feel upset about it. Remember that you're starting over after divorce and be gentle with yourself.
When you're a single parent, a large slice of your overall financial pie will go towards your children's needs. But if you're co-parenting, there's also the added element of shared expenses.
Follow the legal advice from your divorce lawyer and consult your finalized parenting plan to ensure you know who's responsible for certain expenses as you move into life after divorce. Then, you can figure out how those obligations fit into your personal finances.
It may be helpful to do a secondary assessment of just your child-related expenses. Which ones are absolutely necessary, and which ones might be negotiable? Maybe you can afford to continue paying for your daughter's math tutoring, but need to take a break from the dance classes.
Just like things have already changed for you financially, they can change again — for the better! Pausing an extracurricular or saying no to attending birthday parties for a while could help you avoid overcommitting, and your children's small sacrifices will also be learning experiences for them.
Once you've decided what you can handle paying for personally (beyond child support or other required expenses), you'll need to communicate that to your co-parent. Talking about splitting expenses might be a new endeavor for you both, so it could feel a bit raw and overwhelming. Onward, an app created to ease this type of communication, can help you and your co-parent start your new lives stress-free by reducing tense back-and-forths about finances for your kids.
Key takeaway: Financial independence isn't about having a particular amount of money. It's about honestly evaluating your money now so you can make a realistic plan to build a better life for yourself and your children.
One of the most intimidating parts about starting over after divorce is the thought of having to secure a new job. If that's in the cards for you, try to take it one step at a time.
Since most job applications are online, it's ever more crucial to submit a standout resume. If you don't have much experience creating a resume, or you have a lot of updates to add to a previous one, it may be worth hiring someone to help. Be sure to explain any gaps in your work experience with a succinct, professional description.
Even with the perfect resume, there are no guarantees that you'll get responses from prospective employers. Many factors contribute to whether a company takes a look at your application in particular, most of which are out of your control, so keep your head up if you encounter some disappointment.
In the period immediately following your divorce, stay focused on your short-term goals. Building a lasting career takes time, and if you’re having trouble landing the perfect gig initially, you may need to start with a job that's complementary to — but not an exact match for — your ultimate professional goals.
Looking to work in accounting for a large organization? Try searching for bookkeeping jobs at smaller companies.
Looking to land a restaurant management position? Start with a catering or event management job that requires similar skills.
You may not love a job, but it can help you grow regardless. Sometimes, gathering skills and interpersonal experience at the workplaces you aren't crazy about can lead you towards something much more fulfilling.
That doesn't mean you should accept a job that will make you truly miserable, but try to stay open-minded.
If you just need a bit of extra income, or your parenting obligations won't allow for a full-time job, consider looking for freelance assignments. Remote work is popular and widely accepted now, and there are job listing sites that specialize in work-from-home opportunities.
And if the traditional job search isn't yielding results for you, don't be afraid to use your existing connections. When friends and family find out you're starting over after divorce, they're likely to want to help. You could talk to them privately or post on social media about your ideal position. Chances are, you'll be surprised at the kinds of opportunities you’ll find this way. No standard job application can compete with the power of having a personal contact!
Key takeaway: Keep an open mind, and don’t be afraid to ask for help as you re-enter the professional arena. Stay open to the idea that the path to your desired goal could be winding.
Returning to a business setting after your marriage has ended can feel like a rebirth of sorts. You're just getting used to living life as a single person, and now you might be adding in the challenge of learning about a new career or company.
When I was starting over after divorce, going back to work was nerve-wracking. I had been home with my young children for over five years, so I felt completely out of my comfort zone in the conference room. Not to mention the worry I felt over having to send my toddler to daycare for the first time.
I thought my single mom status would be a detriment, but it turned out to be a superpower. My co-workers were incredibly supportive and my kids now admire what I accomplished. In hindsight, I wish I'd had a little more compassion for myself and all that I was balancing.
You may not be able to see it yet, but there is a silver lining to your new professional situation, too. Keep a couple of specific things in mind now could help you see that sooner than I did:
If you've been out of the workforce for a while, or you're in an unfamiliar industry, there will be a learning curve. Remember that this would be true for anyone.
Learning new skills can feel like trying to run uphill when you're out of shape. But eventually, it will become easier.
Pay close attention in training, and you'll pick up on how to use that complicated piece of software or that tricky POS system. If you need additional help, don't forget that you live in the age of YouTube. See if you can find some video tutorials outside of work. A few extra minutes of your time could provide you with invaluable peace of mind on the job.
And if you're unsure about anything, ask questions!
As you would tell your kids when they're struggling with math homework, practice and patience will make you an expert. Before you know it, you could be running the show.
Ideally, you’ll find yourself in an environment that's positive, and you’ll be surrounded by colleagues you get along with. But there can be a strong temptation to compare yourself to those around you.
Remember that your co-workers have different professional backgrounds than you do, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily more qualified. You were hired, so you deserve to be in the position.
It's important not to compare personal lives. Over time, you'll have the opportunity to get to know the people you work with. You may even feel like you're making some new friends, and you might feel comfortable enough to share some details about your circumstances with them.
However, it's completely acceptable if you prefer to keep your post-divorce life confidential. Your colleagues could also have complicated lives, so offer them the same respect and privacy you want to be given.
Key takeaway: There will be some new skills to learn and people to meet when you go back to work after divorce — and that could be overwhelming. Be kind to yourself.
When you're healing after a divorce, financial and career-related stress can have detrimental effects on your well-being — if you're not consciously addressing it. Taking a close and realistic look at your money and being patient with your re-entry into the professional space can be forms of self-care.
Starting over after divorce looks different for everyone, and you might make a few missteps on your journey to a better life. But you'll also grow more than you ever thought possible during this time. Enjoy the new journey ahead!
Chelsea is a twice-divorced mom of two boys. She is happily single parenting and doing her best to balance two simultaneous co-parenting relationships. Despite the complications, Chelsea can see the beauty in her story and believes healing is possible for the whole family.