The ABCs of going back to work after divorce

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This dog is ready to go back to work after divorce. Photo by Jamie Street via Unsplash.

Making divorce finances work sometimes means that the stay-at-home spouse needs to reenter the job market. A CDFA professional can help you determine whether you need to take this step.

Others go back to work outside the home for the freedom it brings. Divorce can be a positive change in your life.

Whatever reason you have for going back to work after divorce, you need to make a plan.

A: Assess your current skills and experience

Obviously, it’s a little easier to get back to work if you continued your education or maintained credentials while you stayed at home. Maybe you took online courses, or went to a few conferences, or something else along these lines.

But even if you didn’t, you can still think about what you’ve done recently while at home. Did you volunteer? If so, what kind of role was it? For example, maybe you were the PTA treasurer, and have some bookkeeping skills as a result.

Were you the parent who took charge of the graduation or party planning for the class? In that case, maybe event planning would be up your alley.

B: Background

If you went to college or some school after high school, what was your major? Did you work any jobs when you were younger? Was there anything you studied or did that you’re still interested in today?

Once you’ve looked at your background and current skills, you probably have an idea of work that you are currently qualified for, or might be qualified for fairly quickly.

C: Estimate the Cost in time and money to upgrade skills if necessary

You’ll want to know how much it costs to get the degree or certificate, and roughly how long it will take. This will help you ask for enough spousal support to sustain you while you get back on your feet. If you can document the costs, it will be easier to negotiate the settlement because you have facts in hand.

Let’s look at an example of someone who planned all the parties at her kids’ schools. She enjoyed the planning and found that she had a good eye for detail. The kids and the adults loved her parties. So she’s thinking of becoming an event planner.

If she has friends who are event planners, she might talk to them about the career. She’ll go online to read about event planning, whether there’s some kind of organization for people in this business, if there are any credentials she’ll need, etc. She’ll also find out what kind of salary she can expect.

She’ll search her geographic area to see if there are any companies that do this already. If not, she may decide to launch her own business.

This research provides a general idea of what being in the field will cost, so you can prepare accordingly.

If you’re planning to continue on in your previous career or field of study, you might not need to look for more education. Those who haven’t been out of the workforce as long, may need only a quick upgrade or new certification. If it’s been years or decades, more school is probably in order, or even look into a different field entirely.

D: Develop a plan

Now you can develop a plan of action to get you to a job. If you do need more education, can you get it at a place that offers career services? How will child care work with these classes? Can you take them online? Is there someone who can help you with your resume? Will you work part-time at first and grow into the role? Do you know people you can talk to about your new field?

The people you talk to don’t have to be in the same exact field. The PTA treasurer might want to talk to CPAs, even though she wants to stick with bookkeeping. They might have advice or contacts for her, since not all bookkeepers want to be CPAs and vice versa.

Once you’ve figured out the steps you need to take, then…

E: Enlist help

Let people you know, know what you’re doing. They may have gone through a similar process, or know someone in the field you’re interested in. They may have some networking events for you, or referral contacts.

People like to help other people. Well, most people do! So don’t be shy about approaching someone who’s successful in your field and asking them to talk to you a little bit about how they got there. Be open to whatever else they’d like to share with you.


Going back to work outside the home can be daunting. By making a plan based on your own experiences and skills, you’ll feel more confident about your goal. Let other people help you while you’re going through the process too.

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