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Best advice for dealing with separation and divorce at work

Date:7 JUN 2017
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Jennifer Wilkie, Associate
Brodies LLP 

Everyone knows the adage 'don’t bring your home life to work'. In practice, even with your best effort, that can’t always be achieved. Where an employee is dealing with issues of health or bereavement HR may step in to alleviate the situation, but what about when you are going through a separation or divorce? 

Butterworths Scottish Family Law Service provides a single source of reference on all aspects of the law as it affects married and unmarried partners and their children. It concentrates on those matters of real and constant concern to the practitioner the consequences of marriage breakdown, such as care of children, distribution of assets and associated problems with taxation, and social security.

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Among other things, separation or divorce can be stressful, upsetting and often embarrassing. As a result, performance and productivity at work can be affected. So, how can you stay on point in your working life and also deal with the tribulations of divorce?

1. Seek advice, legal or otherwise, early on.

Seeking advice from someone independent to your situation can often help you to rationalise and deal with your situation. Some workplaces offer a link to legal or other advisory services such as counselling. While in the early stages of separation, most people don’t want to see a lawyer and don’t see the need. However, discussing your options with a specialist family lawyer can remove a massive amount of uncertainty and anxiety about your situation.

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2. Try to compartmentalise and take your time.

Most people will have a work e-mail and phone along with a personal e-mail account and phone number. Work e-mail should be for work and work alone. Personal e-mail accounts can be readily accessed remotely if need be. During stressful times, turn off your phone and message alerts during working hours so that you can concentrate. Be disciplined in the time you spend checking messages and correspondence from your solicitor or otherwise. Set aside time each day to deal with messages about your separation and be clear with your solicitor or anyone else about when you will be free to communicate. Not only will this mean more efficiency at work, it should also avoid any knee-jerk or emotive reactions.

3. The trusted and few.

There is no harm in confiding in a few trusted colleagues about your separation, so long as this does not lead to unwelcome attention or makes those colleagues feel as though your problem is their problem. Try to leave any discussion that you want to have about your situation for time out of the office, at lunch or after work.

4. A change to your personal circumstances.

For a lot of couples, separation and divorce can lead to a requirement to change working patterns where there are children to be looked after. Where appropriate for your type of work, speak to your employer about flexible working arrangements to accommodate those changed circumstances in advance of making the childcare arrangements. Having a childcare arrangement that you cannot keep due to work commitments may lead to additional stresses. It is also important to keep your employer up to date of any changes to your personal details such as your address. A change to personal circumstances is stressful enough so go easy on yourself. Seek advice at an early stage so that you know you have someone on your side and you have some certainty about what you can do when the time is right for you – knowing your options is key to maintaining a good workdivorce life balance.