Stay at home with your kids or stick with your career: it's a matter of endless debate. But when divorce enters the equation, it's often a matter of financial survival. Whether you're a stay-at-home mom, part-time worker, entrepreneur or full-time career woman, divorce usually creates a need for more income.
"I urge everybody to aim toward self-sufficiency," says Gaetano Ferro, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "The more self-sufficient she can become, the better off she is."
The woman who has left the the work force to care for children may face the bigger challenges when returning to work. But divorcing women in every kind of work circumstance can benefit from taking a soul-searching, strategic approach to finding the kind of job that can sustain them and their families, says Carol Fishman Cohen
, co-author of "Back on the Career Track: A Guide For Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work."
"The people who can figure out what they want to be doing now will be happier in those positions and they'll be doing them for a longer time," says Cohen who has started a career-finding Web site called iRelaunch.com
with her co-author Vivian Steir Rabin.
Ferro says one of the first things divorcing women should do is educate themselves about their family finances. "Stay-at-home moms tend to lack financial sophistication," says Ferro. "They don't pay attention to the family finances."
He suggests they start looking at their tax returns, bank statements, investments, pay stubs and canceled checks. Then he recommends figuring out the family's budget and taking that to a lawyer who is well-versed in family law. Only when a woman has a good idea about what it costs to live her life, will a lawyer be able to help her determine what kind of work she'll need, says Ferro.
If divorcing women have been out of the work force for awhile, finding that work can be challenging. In her controversial book "The Feminine Mistake," author Leslie Bennetts cites a study by Cornell University sociologist Dr. Shelley Correll
that found "mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers who have the same resume, experience and qualifications..."
To help tackle challenges like these, Cohen and her co-author Vivian Steir Rabin offer a seven-step plan to guide women back to work. "We tell people to examine each prior significant and volunteer experience and break each into components," Cohen says. "Then extract those components you really like and are really good at and build your new career path."
Cohen, a married mother of four, says she skipped this step when she returned to work in her former career in investment banking. She ended up leaving that job and now works as a consultant and author. "If I had gone through a rigorous analysis, I would have realized I loved business writing and working with people."