Economic Vulnerability of Divorce.

by Vicki Larson


As hard as my divorce has sometimes been for my kids and me, I am thankful for the good that has come out of it.


Lately, I’m especially thankful that it happened a few years ago.


What difference does that make?


In this economic climate, plenty.


When my former husband and I divorced, I was facing a job market I hadn’t been a full-fledged member of for more than a decade. Although I worked part-time as the editor of a monthly newspaper and did some freelance writing while raising my two boys, I was a bit out of the loop. Still, I needed a full-time job — fast. So I took the first offer that came along — at a salary that was barely above the salary I’d started my journalism career at some two decades prior.


The plan was that I’d get a better job eventually, and I did.


And that’s when everything fell apart. The career I know and love, newspapers, began to abandon me, struggling with dwindling readership and competition from the Internet. And as I watched my co-workers — talented, devoted people — get axed, I started to panic and began looking for a new job. As if a dying industry wasn’t enough, my gender, my age, my marital status and even my kids were now working against me, too.


I’m still employed — for now — but I have empathy for any woman looking to find work right now because of a divorce. Because if you’ve stayed at home raising kids and haven’t kept up your skills — no matter how many book fairs you coordinated or even if you practically ran the PTA single-handedly throughout your child’s grade-school years — you’re as much of a dinosaur as last year’s MacBook.


I’m not sure if there are better or worse times to get a divorce — usually people choose that path when they just can’t make a marriage work anymore, regardless of what’s happening in the world at large. But with the economic and real estate market meltdown, if ever there was a “worse” time, this has got to be it. In fact, an article in the New York Times in December stated that with almost one in six homes worth less than the mortgage owed on it ”divorce has become more complicated and often more expensive, with lower prospects for money on the other side.”


But if you’ve already signed the papers, the picture isn’t pretty — even if you’re lucky enough to get hired. First, women get paid less than men do; women out of college make 80 percent less than their male colleagues and, 10 years later, they earn only 69 percent of what men make, according to the American Association of University Women’s latest study.


Plus you’ll most likely be facing maternal profiling — employment discrimination against a woman who has, or will have, children — and thus less likely to be hired than non-mothers with equal resumes and job experiences, and then given fewer opportunities for advancement than others.


And although 40 may be the new 30 when it comes to dating, it doesn’t quite work that way in the workplace.