As originally published on Collaborative Divorce Northwest Blog
“Many divorcing women are scared to death of becoming bag ladies, and many men are scared to death of becoming indentured servants.” J. Mark Weiss, JD
Vocational assessments, when provided by a collaborative career coach help settle spousal support in collaborative and mediated divorce cases. The approach, a combination of personal and career counseling and coaching, engages the whole person who is divorcing, and addresses the entire family system.
This type of career coaching empowers a divorcing woman by involving her in the creation of a plan for her future including next steps for education, job search or small business start-up. It goes beyond traditional vocational assessment and employment projections to include help with fears about re-entering the workplace, guidance to gather info about her options and consideration of the impact her plan may have on her spouse and the rest of the family.
Typically fears are induced by past employment or educational challenges, technological change, age, not knowing what’s out there and a perceived loss of skills, relevance and self-confidence. In addition, most women are concerned about how going back to work and/or school will affect her children. All of these concerns are addressed openly, creating safety. As fears are faced and ideas generated to navigate them, it becomes more possible to assess her interests and skills and think about what she might want to do. A discussion of her values is helpful in clarifying priorities and trade-offs as she begins to negotiate with her husband.
Once the vocational assessment has helped her identify her best career options or validated an idea that she’s been considering, she is coached to research her ideas further through on-line resources, informational interviews and speaking with college advisers. This hands-on work fosters a vision of what is possible and is useful in narrowing options. It also creates a sense of ownership and boosts self-confidence. Women bloom.
If feasible, a woman’s educational plan and timing can be tied to her children’s school schedule. For example, her first day back in college to obtain a BA can be timed with her child’s entry into kindergarten or first grade, minimizing childcare costs and giving her more time to pursue her studies.
In addition to offering support and guidance to a divorcing woman a collaborative approach to vocational assessment addresses a husband’s fears and concerns and incorporates his feedback as the team of attorneys, coaches, financial neutrals and couple work together.
If he is open to helping his spouse pursue more education (and many men pursuing mediation or a collaborative divorce are) his needs and concerns are explored. As the couple’s finances become clearer or are subject to change, husband’s voice to create a step-down in spousal support is heard and incorporated into wife’s plan.
Specific examples of incorporating a husbands needs in the process include facilitating the speedy evaluation of his wife’s business plan to meet his need to move on, or appreciating husband’s need to understand her total school costs in monthly terms and controlling the cost of education by exploring options at the community college. Usually a man will want to know his soon to be ex will strive to earn the most she can thus helping to ensure financial security for all.
Ideally the open, trusting enough and creative atmosphere at the table has engaged the couple to explore mutually, agreeable objectives. For example wife’s need to work a PT job while going to school PT could involve husband timing visitation around her schedule, in order to give her a break
or study time when she could use it.
Hopefully these settlements within the settlement include the possibility of checking in down the road, if needed. We do indeed live in times of change. Projecting around the corner is trickier. Build sensible modifications that can be experienced as helpful structure during this on-going life and career transition. Track criteria committed to by the couple, such as progress towards a bachelor’s degree or technical certificate. Earning increases or decreases and employment/business development status including clearer projections can be eyed as well.
Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC
Collaborative Divorce Coach and Career Counselor
Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions