Returning to work Post-divorce: Why Stay-at-home Parents are Advised to go Back to Work after Divorce

Sandra Russell Heads of Graysons’ Family Team
Sandra Russell
Head of
Graysons’ Family Team

As we’ve explored before, it’s now pretty rare for a stay-at-home parent to receive spousal support for life.

A decade or a few years is the best case scenario, now. Family court judges will expect both parties to contribute financially to their children’s upbringing – so how are you going to do this?

If you stopped working to bring up your children, it’s likely that you’ll need to supplement your income beyond that of any spousal support and child maintenance payments arranged in your financial settlement.

You may need to prepare a steady income stream in anticipation of the day when spousal support from your ex will end – so enabling you to become fully financially independent. This is why returning to work may be something you need to do.

But how do you find work that will fit around looking after your children?

Whether you are the resident parent or the non-resident parent, finding and keeping a job that works with your family arrangements can be another tough aspect of divorce.

What are the different types of working patterns available to you?

The amount of hours you may want or need to work will of course depend on your contact and residence arrangements with your ex, the age of your children, and what other childcare options are available to you (for example, nursery and childminders, or family). Your ex may have your children at weekends, or even half of the week, so this may dictate what kind of work pattern that will best suit your situation. Think about some of the hours you could work:

  • Freelance

Pros: This can be a great option if you previously worked in industries where there is demand for self-employed workers, such as the creative and technical professions, or if you can provide consultancy in your previous field of expertise. Being freelance often means that you can work at home too, which is ideal if you have small children or need to make the school run. It’s handy for keeping on top of your domestic chores too.

Cons: There are two main difficulties with the freelance market. The first is that it can be difficult to drum up the business from your clients if you have been out of the work network for a while.

The second is that, unless you can agree set freelance contracts, it can be very unpredictable and precarious: both in workload and in income. You may work just a few days a month or be up to your eyes.

This can make any financial planning problematic, especially if an unexpected expense comes up. It also makes holidays – both your own, and the school breaks – difficult, if you suddenly have to pause work with your clients.

  • Part time

Pros: Working part-time is probably the Holy Grail for any working parent, divorced or not! You get to have a structure to your week, socialise with colleagues, earn your own money, get a sense of achievement, and time to spend with your kids as well.

Returning to work Post-divorce smallA part-time pattern can work well if you split your children’s residence with your ex, since it allows you to work when your children are with them, giving you some time off from childcare and a life of your own outside the kids.

You can also arrange to work every day within school hours, so you’re home when you need to be.

Cons: Part-time positions are thin on the ground in many areas of the country, as competition is high from other working parents.

Sometimes you can feel that you are neither one thing nor the other, and stretched too thinly as both an employee and a parent. Some companies might try to squeeze a full-time workload into your part-time hours, so it could be stressful. You may miss important developments on the days you’re not in the office.

  • Full time

Pros: You can fully throw yourself back into a career and demonstrate your commitment to your new employers. Full time work is definitely easier to find than a part-time job. And of course, you earn more money too!

Cons: Going from being a stay-at-home parent to full-time work can be a shock. If you’ve used your stay-at-home time to keep a spotless house and a week’s menu of nutritious food served up on time every night, this is likely to slip.

Working full time can also be difficult if you need to do the school run, so it’s better suited to those with older children or family who can help out.

  • Term-time only

Pros: School holidays can be a minefield for divorced parents, with three sets of holiday to co-ordinate: yours, your ex’s and your kids! Working term-time only means that you always have the holidays free to look after your children, no matter whether your ex can take them.

Cons: Term-time work is often unique to the education sector, so you’ll need to have the right transferrable skills. And because you already get set holidays, you can’t really take any other time off: not great if arrangements with your ex suddenly fall through.

Sandra heads Graysons’ family team.  She qualified as a solicitor in April 1994, having obtained her law degree at Sheffield University. She has specialised exclusively in family law ever since.

She is personally recommended in the Legal 500 2015 as being ‘committed, focused and confident’.

Sandra became a Resolution accredited specialist in January 2000 and qualified as a collaborative family lawyer in April 2009.  Her accredited areas are advanced complex financial and property matters and domestic abuse.

Sandra is passionate about helping couples to resolve their disputes in a non-adversarial, respectful manner; focusing on the needs of their children and re-enforcing the importance of conflict avoidance.  She finds collaborative work particularly rewarding in guiding clients through their individual separation journeys so they can look towards a brighter future.



photo credit: Woman and young girl in kitchen with laptop and paperwork smiling via photopin (license)

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