Divorce May Hurt Your Business More Than You Realize: How to Divorce-Proof Your Business

As a business owner today, you are constantly adapting to change, while also looking to boost productivity and minimize risk and expenses. Divorce may be a huge hidden drain on your bottom line that few are talking about. And yet it’s true that 30-50% of your married employees are destined to go through a divorce.

And divorce can have a big impact on workforce productivity.

As business owners we care about our employees. We offer paid time off, health benefits, retirement support and in-house amenities to support their happiness and productivity. But when it comes to employees going through divorce, support can often be lacking. Divorces can be messy, complicated, and toxic, sometimes dragging on for years. When professionals go through these challenging transitions, their focus and productivity often diminishes without warning or explanation. The company is left in the dark, and the gap between company and employees widens.

According to a 1996 study, divorce costs businesses $6 billion per year in lost productivity.[1] In the year following divorce, employees can lose an average of 168 hours of work time, equivalent to four weeks.[2] Divorce can disrupt the productivity of a worker for as long as three years.[3] John Curtis of Integrated Organizational Development in Waynesville, N.C. estimates that the average cost to businesses per worker going through a divorce is about $8,300.[4]

On a classic rating scale of stressful life events, divorce consistently ranks number two — second only to the death of a spouse or child.[5] It’s not surprising many employees buckle under the pressure.

Under these circumstances, it behooves businesses to think about whether they could do more to support their employees in having healthy divorces that have less of a negative impact on their employees. According to a 2012 Huffington Post article, “When employers are able to help employees through this all-too-common but difficult and potentially distracting situation, it can pay dividends for both.”[6]

While divorce is almost always painful and challenging to some degree, it’s difficulty has been greatly worsened by the fact that divorces are traditionally handled through the legal system, in much the same way as any other civil dispute. Each spouse hires a lawyer. The lawyers do what lawyers are trained to do: paint the other spouse as bad. They file motions, they make accusations, they posture, and finally, on the eve of trial, they sit down to try to settle the mess. If they can’t, a judge--“stranger in a robe”--settles the issues for them: such personal issues as who makes which parenting decisions, how much time each parent gets to be with their children, and where the parties can live.

Seeking to avoid the cost and the perceived negative influence of lawyers, the vast majority of people in Boulder and Denver counties go through divorce “pro se”, without legal representation. Many of those couples don’t get any professional help whatsoever in managing the legal, emotional and logistical labyrinth of divorce.

Unfortunately, the outcome of these “homemade” divorces is often poor agreements, which land the couple back in court fighting and frequently leave one of the spouses without proper resources to take care of their children after the divorce. Divorce is a complicated business, especially when kids are involved. It’s very difficult for laypeople to even anticipate all of the issues they will need to agree upon, much less make sense of all the legal and financial intricacies.

There is another way, however, that avoids much of the costs and damages of litigated divorces and the poor outcomes of pro se divorces. Attorney-mediated, collaborative approaches to divorce are almost always far less expensive, less debilitating for the parties, and far more conducive of positive outcomes than litigated divorces. And because the attorney-mediator is knowledgeable about the law and process, couples using this process avoid the pitfalls of going it alone.

Here at Conscious Family Law & Mediation, we have developed a unique offering that can help divorce-proof a business. Conscious Divorce Mediation is an efficient and healthy approach to ending a legal marriage. Through this process, even the most complex divorce issues can be handled appropriately and successfully by a neutral attorney-mediator, often aided by a neutral financial expert as part of a small team. And the typical time frame for reaching a final divorce through this mediation process is about three months, versus six to 24 months for a litigated process.

And while a conventional litigated divorce with custody and property division issues costs an average of $37,000,[7] the average cost of a Conscious Divorce Mediation process is about $6,000 but can be as low as $2,500.

In creating the Conscious Divorce Mediation approach, Peter Fabish, JD, MA, and John Hoelle, JD, the principals of Conscious Family Law & Mediation LLC, brought their collective experience of over 30 years practicing law, as well as backgrounds in clinical psychotherapy, collaborative law, and a variety of mindfulness and healing practices. Having each experienced divorce first-hand, they take seriously their work to take care of people through one of life’s biggest challenges with grace, creativity, and professionalism.

“Couples who choose a non-litigated divorce will spend less time in court, have more opportunity to be referred to mental health professionals and other supportive professionals, have more control over when and where they meet to work with their professionals, and have less stress. This is not only better for the employers, it is better for our community as a whole.”[8]

Businesses are wising up. By encouraging workers to take part in this unique mediated process and paying part of the flat-fee costs, they are investing in a form of self-insurance against the loss of their most valuable resource: healthy, productive employees.

[1] Forthofer, M., Markman, H., Cox, M., Stanley, S., & Kesler, R. (1996). “Associations between marital distress and work loss in an national sample.” Journal of Marriage & Family, vo. 58, 597-605.

[2] Mueller, R. (2005). “The effect of marital dissolution on the labour supply of males and females: Evidence from Canada.” Journal of Socio-Economics, 34, 787-809.

[3] Lavy, G. (2002). “Why promote healthy marriages?” Corporate Resource Council. http://www.corporateresourcecouncil.org/white_papers.html

[4] His estimate assumes an average wage of $19.50 per hour and a 50 percent to 75 percent drop in productivity. It also includes days missed as the worker takes time off to deal with the legal, financial and psychological issues related to divorce.

[5] Moskovitch, D., Downgrading Divorce from Crisis to Process in the Workplace, Huffington Post March 1, 2012 (retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-moskovitch/downgrading-divorce-from-_b_1248497.html (May 9, 2017).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Martindale-Nolo Research (2015). How much does divorce cost in Colorado? (retrieved from http://family-law.lawyers.com/divorce/how-much-does-divorce-cost-in-colorado.html (June 15, 2017).

[8] Wirtz, A. & Williams, L., An Overview of the Cost of Divorce to Employers (retrieved from http://www.skirbuntlaw.com/pdf/DivorceCoststoEmployers.pdf (May 9, 2017).

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Conscious Family Law & Mediation LLC

3775 Iris Avenue, Suite 4

Boulder, Colorado 80301

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Conscious Family Law & Mediation LLC serves Colorado residents (including same-sex and other alternative families) statewide with mediation, and with representation in Boulder County, Denver County, Broomfield County, Larimer County, Adams County, Weld County, and Jefferson County.