Experiencing a divorce is more than challenging. It can be so many things – difficult, emotional, draining, stressful… the list goes on. In fact, the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, also known as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, measures divorce as a top stressor. The scale, originally published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 1967, assesses stress levels in an individual’s life. This tool measures divorce as the second-most stressful event while marital separation is listed as the third most stressful. For perspective, the most stressful event on this scale is the death of a spouse. 

(This scale is used as a self-measurement system where individuals can rank their total stress. Click here for a great worksheet and evaluation tool from the American Institute of Stress.)

I am a collaborative family law attorney and child of divorce who has also faced divorce first-hand. Through these personal experiences, I know all too well how stressful marital separation and divorce can be on those involved. One of the many reasons why I practice alternative dispute resolution processes is because they are often less stressful on the entire family. These types of methods, such as collaborative law, mediation, and settlement negotiation, keep families out of court and reduce unnecessary conflict. 

Oftentimes, the stress of divorce can also affect an individual’s career. Through my work in collaborative law, researching divorce culture, and advocating for awareness, I’ve found that out-of-court processes allow divorcing spouses to keep their personal and professional lives on track. I can also speak to this in a personal manner as my own divorce utilized collaborative law. This process gave us the power to handle our separation and divorce without it impacting our careers. 

In my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, I investigate the ways that traditional divorce litigation can negatively impact an individual’s career. This has been proven in several studies that look at how traditional divorce can cause an employee to experience stress and emotional hardship as well as miss days of work for court dates and attorney meetings. When children are involved, it becomes even more stressful and distracting for a divorcing parent who is also trying to balance a career. 

Changing How Divorce is Handled in the Workplace

Through my research in divorce culture and my mission to change the way divorce is handled in the United States, I’ve had the honor of speaking on this topic to audiences worldwide. I’m also looking at how divorce is handled in the workplace. It can be improved when human resources departments and professionals assess how they can support employees who experience divorce. I was recently asked to become a Lorman Education Services faculty member to provide training courses on the role that HR professionals can play during an employee’s divorce. In one of my courses, “How HR Can Avoid Missteps When an Employees Goes Through a Divorce,” I discuss the crossroads between work and family crises. There is a duty of HR departments to support their employees who are experiencing these types of stressful home situations, including separation and divorce. I’ve also had the honor of joining Cy Wakeman on her No Ego podcast to talk about how divorce impacts the workplace. Through my knowledge in this space, I explained that collaborative law is the best way to ensure that a career stays on track when an employee is experiencing divorce. She later joined me on my podcast, “Divorce, Healthy!” to discuss how leadership in divorce can minimize conflict during the process and also while in the workplace.

Speaking of the workplace, according to a new study, corporations are losing millions of dollars every year due to decreased productivity from employees experiencing divorce. The study looks at the direct link between custody battles and corporate revenue loss. As I’ve written in previous articles, this research is the first of its kind that addresses the impact that inequality in the United States Family Court System has on corporations. The researcher, Casey Sowers, is a doctoral candidate in business administration at Florida International University. Once this new research is officially published, we’ll have access to hard data that will truly benefit corporations as they look to develop HR policies that better support divorcing employees.

Keeping Your Career on Track During Divorce

While it’s clear that companies may be affected by the divorce of an employee, another concern is how a divorce may impact an employee’s professional goals. Typically, when a divorce is handled through litigation, it’s common to miss many days of work or take several breaks during the day for meetings, strategy sessions, or court dates. It’s also a process that can take years and cost more due to court and legal fees. In addition, an employee may find themselves distracted during the day, not performing well as part of a team, or struggling with priorities and boundaries.

Divorce doesn’t have to be that way. When divorcing spouses choose collaborative law or another out-of-court dispute resolution process, they’re putting themselves in control of the process. They’re also saving time and money since they aren’t using a combative method like litigation that forces families to rely on court calendars, a judge’s availability, or adversarial tactics. Through the outlined collaborative process, the spouses are able to make their own informed decisions about what works best for their separation and divorce. Each spouse works with their own collaboratively trained attorney who guides them through the process. For instance, when I work with a client to handle a collaborative divorce case, we work together to examine financial situations such as assets, debts, properties, businesses, and more. Then, we sit down with the other spouse and their attorney to negotiate a mutually agreed upon resolution. Collaborative law also prioritizes children as it helps to create parenting agreements that work for both parents.

Having these types of methods outlined in a step-by-step format allows the spouses to focus more on their daily lives and less on the stress of their divorce. While there are certainly still challenges and emotions during the divorce journey, my collaborative divorce clients have reported that their careers are rarely impacted during the process. In fact, some clients have told me that they were actually promoted at work or moved up into new, better positions thanks to some of the skills they learned during the collaborative divorce process such as negotiation, teamwork, and compromise. 

Divorcing Healthy with Collaborative Law

AN|R Law is committed to helping North Carolina families divorce in a healthy manner that protects the wellbeing of their children, their lives, and their careers. If you’d like to connect with me, you can follow the AN|R social media accounts on FacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn. You can also check out my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, and listen to my podcast, “Divorce, Healthy!” which is available on all major listening platforms. 

You can learn more about working with AN|R Law: A Negotiated Resolution for collaborative divorce and other family law matters in North Carolina by reaching out to our office. You can call 252-702-4376 or fill out this online contact form. We have four North Carolina locations in Raleigh, Greenville, Beaufort, and Wilmington to serve you and your family. With virtual options, we can also serve families across the state who want to use collaborative law, mediation, and settlement negotiation.

If you’re interested in inviting me, Ashley-Nicole Russell, to speak at your next event or conference, I’d be honored to talk with you about the opportunity. I’m currently booking in-person and virtual speaking engagements for 2022 and 2023. Please reach out to my team by emailing media@anrlaw.com.