Divorce With Respect


Presenteeism: employees are unable to pay full attention to their jobs because they are distracted by personal issues

Presenteeism: employees have performance failures because of stress in their life outside of work

Financial worries (such as impending foreclosure or bankruptcy), marital tensions, and mental health problems are all potential distractions. Indeed, almost any major cause of stress in an employee’s life can become a constant source of distraction and affect job performance.

The Major Causes of Work Stress

There are two major causes of stress that are not fundamentally mental health issues, but they can adversely affect work performance.

  • One is financial trouble
  • A second source of stress is legal difficulties. Divorce meets both of these criteria. Lawyers committed to conventional adversary representation may actually generate more stress and mental health issues for employees. This is particularly true in divorces and other matters in which the legal process intersects with emotional issues, such as in family disputes about caring for elderly parents or inheriting property. Referrals to qualified professionals trained in alternate dispute resolution (ADR) can benefit both the employee and the employer

The Impact of Divorce

  • Divorce is perhaps the most common source of acute stress in the workplace.
  • Divorce generates economic and emotional stress and it can be made much worse by the legal process itself.

In about half of all divorces, within two years the parties are back in court fighting over kids and money. Between current divorces and post-judgment disputes, a substantial percentage of employees could be distracted by ongoing divorce processes on any given day.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and human resources departments can do things that can help reduce the emotional impact of divorce and help employees regain their focus much more quickly. ADR services can reduce both the stress and duration of the divorce process, thereby greatly increasing productivity and decreasing job errors among divorcing employees. Referrals to ADR professionals is a step toward reducing presenteeism.

To understand the benefits of divorce ADR, one must understand the American way of divorce. Divorce is both a legal process and an emotional process, and the ways in which these processes interact will determine the tone of the divorce. Some divorces are resolved quickly, with the couple reaching agreement on the issues with relative ease and without bitterness. Many divorces are long, rancorous and costly, and these divorces will have the most negative emotional impact on employees going through the process.

The fact of divorce refers to the emotional impact of the decision to divorce and the stress generated by the necessary changes required by divorce. Even amicable divorces require at least one partner (if not both) to move to another dwelling, thereby necessitating new parenting patterns for children and the associated stress of rotating between households. For most middle-class families, divorce also means economic retrenchment. Finally, divorce can trigger the full range of difficult emotions – anger, rejection, betrayal, and fear of loneliness and social isolation and all of these emotions can cause stress and distract people from concentrating fully on their job tasks. The process used to deal with divorce can make things worse or help make it better.

How Can Employers Make a Difference?

  • It is in the interest of employers to promote education about divorce process options as a way to reduce the impact of presenteeism.
  • EAPs should inform employees who are involved in divorces or other family disputes about the availability of community education programs and make referrals to trained professionals.
  • Providing employees with referrals to a variety of professionals who can help them get through a divorce can result in bottom-line gains for everyone by reducing the loss of productivity cause by protracted and destructive litigation.

View Our Areas Of Practice