Going Back to Work after a Divorce: Advice for Moms

woman working

As if going through a divorce isn’t stressful enough, add to it the process of entering or returning to the workforce. This is a huge stressor for many women after a divorce. Fortunately, there are many resources and advice available to women entering or returning to work after a divorce.

Nancy Rabern

Nancy offers sound advice on how to get started:

  • Do some research to find out what might interest you at this time in your life. Do an internet search, talk with family and friends, think of the things you love to do and why you love them.
  • With things narrowed down to an area of interest you want to explore in the job market, write a two to four sentence statement that describes you and why you are interested in this type of job/career.
  • Let everyone you come in contact with know that you are looking for a job. Ask them for leads or introductions to people in similar fields. Reach out to people in similar fields to find out about how they got started and what advice they might offer. LinkedIn is a good tool for this. Google this field of interest and look for profiles of people in that field.
  • After this amount of research and legwork, finally reach out to a recruiter who specializes in this are of interest. Again, Google is a great resource here. Ask the recruiter to review your resume. “Recruiters spend between eight and ten seconds (yes, seconds) on a resume.” Get tips and advice for making your resume stand out.
  • Do not go back to school right away. It might make more sense down the road, but not initially.
  • Be open to new ideas. The job market changes quickly and there might be jobs out there that you never knew about. Be open to seeking to work with a career coach. A professional might be able to help you with many of these steps.

Jackie Pilossoph

Jackie offers eight job searching tips for women who find themselves in this position:

  • Get help writing your resume. Either seek professional assistance for this or ask friends and acquaintances to help edit and offer advice.
  • Try working with a career coach. It can help you decide what job or career path would be best for you.
  • Interviews have changed over the years, so practicing the interview will only help you when it comes to the real thing.
  • Use all of the contacts that you have available to you. Most often people will offer you assistance if they are able.
  • If you are not currently computer savvy, start working on that now. It doesn’t take as long as you think to develop new technology skills.
  • Be concerned about your physical appearance when job seeking and interviewing. Be healthy (exercise, eat right) and be well groomed (hair, nails, clothes, make-up).
  • Single moms are another great resource and support network so reach out to any that you know. Everyone that has been through a divorce can relate to your anxiety and current situation and most will be eager to share their experiences and advice.
  • Believe in yourself. Give yourself pep talks and learn to believe that you will master this job search just like you have mastered other things in your life.

Jennifer Jank

Jennifer recommends the following tips for re-entering the workforce:

  • Assess where you are at currently. What are your skills and experience? Did you do Continuing Ed while being a stay-at-home-mom? Did your volunteer experience add some additional and unique skills for you? What past jobs did you have that you still might be interested in?
  • Evaluate whether it is worth it to get a degree, certificate or further training. This will cost money and that might be tight at this time. If you feel it is essential, then you might be able to work this into your divorce settlement.
  • Now that you have done your homework, develop a plan of action. What do you need: more education/training, more child care, resume help, list of contacts in this field or a related field? Once your plan is set, get help. Ask your friends and acquaintances for referrals. Seek out others in this field and ask for their advice.


  • Be creative and write down what kind of jobs you might like. Explore areas that you may not have previously considered. List things that might be important to you like hours, salary, full time or part time, travel time to work, job title.
  • List your strengths and weaknesses for each of these jobs. What from your current experiences would make you a good candidate for one of these jobs. What other skills or experiences are you lacking for these jobs? Should you go back and get that certification, finish your degree, take those extra courses to bring you up to date in that field?
  • Networking is your friend. Seek our friends, relatives, acquaintances to ask about their job seeking experience, who they might know if your field, available positions, etc. Join social networking sites liked LinkedIn can also be a great source of referrals.


This posts talks about managing your finances and looking for a job. Advice from this blog includes the following:

  • Be realistic. If you have been away from the workforce for a while, don’t expect to move into a high-level job. Seek out the advice of a financial expert to help you list your assets, expenses, debt and income to arrive at a plan that will meet your new financial situation.
  • Assess your interests, skills and abilities. See if these might lead to a new career. Do adequate research into your job search to find what might be out there. New careers are being added to the workforce all the time. Allow time for you to adjust to be back in the workforce.
  • Develop credit in your name. From the financial plan you already developed from your resources, you should strive for an income-to-debt ratio of 30% to 40%. If you fall within this range, most banks will issue you a credit card in your name. If you are not able to qualify for a bank issued credit card, you can still begin to develop your own credit history. Many stores offer instant credit so this might be a good starting place. Making purchases and then on-time payments will help build your credit history. Usually in about a year you can apply for a bank issued credit card in your name.
  • Come to terms with your debt. Any debt held jointly between you and your ex makes you responsible for half of the amount. Your divorce settlement might not protect you from any of these debts. Credit card companies do not acknowledge your divorce settlement…. they are only concerned about the money that is owed. If your name is still associated with the debt, then you are still responsible for the debt.
  • Many people will face the decision of whether to sell the house after divorce. Consider not only your children’s emotional needs, but also the financial expectations of living long term in the house, if the assets of the sale will be beneficial to your financial plan.
  • Live within your means. Create a new budget that reflects your new financial situation. Compare this to the budget you created at the beginning of your divorce process. Note what has changed. You may need to make adjustments so that you will be able to live within your means.

Marion TD Lewis

While reviewing some of the obstacles women have to over come when trying to find that first job, Marion describes several positive changes that have taken place in the workforce for divorced women returning to work.

The most common obstacles to overcome when stepping out to find that first job after a divorce are: sexism, ageism, harassment and discrimination, child care costs, inadequate support from their ex. Women also face psychological hurdles. Often the woman worries about her current skill level, the changing work place, competing with younger workers, gaps in her resume from staying at home with the children. Managing to overcome these obstacles can be daunting and some find themselves struggling to find employment.

Luckily there has been a change in the attitude of many companies toward women returning to the workforce.   Some have even started “returnships” designed specifically for women in this situation. Forbes magazine reported that these companies have adopted similar programs: Godaddy, Instacart, Zendesk, Demandbase, Cloudflare, Cousera. There are also some non-profits and other companies that can assist women returning to the workforce: Path Forward, reacHIRE, iRelaunch, Mom Corps, The Mom Project, OnRamp Fellowship, Hourly Nerd, Werk, ReBoot, Emissaries, The Second Shift, Apres, Lynda, The Enternship. For a more comprehensive list of resources, read this WeParent blog post.

Lewis offers some general tips on your resume, networking and interviewing for women returning to the workforce. Among them are the following:

  • Discuss volunteer and freelance work
  • Attend job fairs and industry conferences
  • Start a blog
  • Leverage your homemaking skills
  • Highlight personal skills and traits
  • Proofread, be concise, use bullet points, sell yourself
  • Be flexible. That statement allows you to consider things like job sharing, part time work, taking a job “beneath” you. It is always best to keep your options open, be open-minded and develop a plan B.
  • Improve your job skills, attitude, confidence, physical appearance, technology skills.

Karen Covy

Karen suggests that going back to work after divorce can have many positive aspects, even if there is alimony being paid to the woman. Below are some points to consider:

  • Permanent alimony is not always permanent. If there are changes in your ex’s financial status and income, your alimony may be adjusted by the courts.
  • Your ex may decide to stop paying your alimony. Of course, the courts will intervene, but in the meantime an income of your own will help you.
  • The death of your ex will certainly stop the alimony. It is doubtful that there would be any provisions set up for this in the will or life insurance policy.
  • Being away from the workforce makes getting a job hard. It makes it harder the longer you are away from it, so try to start the process as soon as you are comfortable.
  • When you work, most often your company pays for some of your health insurance costs. It is expensive to purchase health insurance on your own, so returning to work could add another checkmark in the pro column.
  • Building a savings of your own allows an extra layer of cushion for rainy-day expenses. Your alimony alone might not allow for you to save for unexpected expenses. A job would help you expand that savings account.
  • There may have been some asset distribution following the divorce that you have set aside for retirement. Creating or adding to a retirement fund should be a high priority goal. Income form a job can help. Also, many companies will contribute a certain percentage towards a retirement account.
  • A new job will help build your self-esteem and confidence. Accomplishing things on your own will often give you a sense of pride and confidence.

Carol Fishman Cohen

In the book she co-authored with Vivian Steir Rabin, Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-home Mothers Who Want to Return to Work, she describes a 7 step process for relaunching your career. In addition to those basic 7 steps, there are a few other things to consider when a divorce is the cause of your re-entry:

  • Finances may be a paramount issue, so you may have to take a lesser, entry level job at first. Taking a job to pay the bills should come first.
  • While working in this first job, assess your career options. List what you did before you were married, any jobs you had and the skills involved. Be sure to consider your volunteer experience. Also list the things you liked about these experiences.
  • Another thing to consider is your interviewing skills. You may need extra practice not only because you have been out of the workforce, but also because your emotional state may be a bit fragile right now. The tip here is to go on interviews from your least interesting prospect to the most interesting job prospect. This way you can practice your interviewing skills on jobs that you are not very interested in.

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