Career Scenarios That Can Influence Your Divorce Settlement


Looking for a fresh start in your career may seem to tie in well with Splitting Up and seeking a new life after divorce. But changes you may make in your work life and some career milestones can impact you financially during a divorce settlement. Here are some of the key career scenarios that could affect the outcome of your divorce.

You’re due a bonus payment

Sales representatives, operations managers, and members of executive teams often receive bonuses of some kind. Whether it’s a commission-based, performance related or profit-sharing bonus, the courts will explore whether or not it should be included in a divorce settlement. This will in large part depend on if any employment compensation or bonuses were received or worked for before you began divorce proceedings. Tip: If you receive a bonus that has been included as an income figure when calculating maintenance payments, ensure this is not duplicated as a marital asset too.

You’re in a career transition

Transitioning through divorce alongside a significant career shift is not usually a wise move for your overall mental well-being. It is also not often helpful from a financial perspective. For example, if you are changing to a new role with a higher salary, this may benefit your former spouse in terms of the child maintenance amount you should pay. Similarly, if you are moving into a role with less pay, you may still have to make payments based on your previous salary. Remember that courts have extensive discretion when making decisions on financial settlements and all relevant factors will be considered.

You’re retiring

If your retirement coincides with your divorce then things can become complex. A pension will usually be included as a marital asset and the courts will start with a 50:50 split. However, the split will depend on any other assets and circumstances within your divorce. This may result in you maintaining your pension while your ex-spouse keeps the family home, for example. In some cases, pensions will be shared in order to achieve a clean break. Factors such as whether or not your pension was optional or mandatory, if you will be able to collect your pension without incurring a penalty, and the legitimacy of your retirement – ​​for example, if you planning on going back to work in some capacity in the future will all be taken into account by the courts.

You lose your job

The courts will look into the reasons behind any involuntary job loss during a financial settlement, with the aim of ensuring any children involved maintain the lifestyle they had before you and their other parents divorced. To achieve this, they may order the partner with the highest salary to pay more until the other is in a position to earn more if the person losing their job can prove it was through no fault of their own. If it is their fault, the courts could rule that the amount paid is based on their previously higher salary. If you receive a severance packageit will be dealt with like a regular income by the courts, however, if you gain employment immediately after, it may also be treated as an asset.

Does future earning potential play a role in a divorce settlement?

Yes and no. When it comes to gaining a share of your former spouse’s future earnings, even if they were an asset during the marriage, the court’s reason that there needs to be a clear ending to the marriage. Without this, there is a possibility that the divorce proceedings could go on for many years, defeating the object of a clean break.


Planning your next career steps carefully is the key to achieving a successful settlement outcome. Make sure you speak to a legal adviser early on in the process, to help you make informed decisions – you will thank you later.


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