Human Resources Can Offer a Hand During Divorce


  • It is beneficial for a company for the Human Resources department to offer a hand to individuals going through a divorce.
  • Many benefits changes need to occur during and after the divorce process.
  • Emotional support may be sought after a divorce.
divorce uncertainty

When you’re going through a divorce, there already are countless individuals and entities reaching out to offer their own forms of support. Whether they are family members, friends, neighbors, or coworkers, they are interested in making sure that you make it to the other side of this situation.

With coworkers, many are looking to help where they know best: in the office. Since work productivity falls during a divorce, employers are looking to help out where they can, which can mean coworkers lending a helping hand or Human Resources offering their assistance.

Many employers are monitoring the way that divorce affects their employees. According to the Nashville Business Journal, approximately one in 10 employees will divorce in any given year, and since they estimate that divorce is a seven year event, 70 percent of the workforce will be experience a stage of the divorce experience at any given time.

This requires all resources to be at an employer’s disposal, in order to help to employee during their challenging time of need. Some employers assign the task of a helping hand to Human Resources.

Changing benefits

On the logistical side of an employee’s divorce, Human Resource might be leaned on for their expertise in assisting the employee in how their benefits may be impacted. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the main consideration is eligibility and entitlement to both retirement and welfare plans.

When it comes to retirement plans, the company should ask if a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) has been filled out to determine how to properly administer and divide the retirement assets. A QDRO is a judgment, decree, or order for a retirement plan to pay child support, alimony, or marital rights to a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a participant, according to the IRS.

A QDRO contains the amount or percentage of the participant’s benefits to be paid to each alternate payee, as well as the participant and each alternate payee’s name and last known mailing address. When a former spouse receives QDRO benefits from a retirement plan, they report the payments received as if they were a plan participant and is allocated a share of the participant’s cost equal to the cost times a fraction. This fraction is the present value of the benefits payable to the spouse over the present value of all benefits payable to the participant.

The employee’s health insurance also comes into play. Divorce is considered a Qualifying Life Event, which means that many medical insurance providers create a special enrollment period for them to reenroll. Additionally, soon-to-be ex-spouses or ex-spouses are offered COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985), until they can acquire other forms of medical insurance.

There may be other benefits that a divorcing employee might look to Human Resources to help with. Beneficiary statuses on life insurance policies need to be changed. Additionally, if the divorcing employee has a flexible spending account for dependent or medical care, the beneficiary statuses need to be changed, as well.

There also is the issue of emergency contact information. It is important for an employer to have to most up to date information, in case of any type of emergency. This requires the divorcing employee to name another person in their life as the emergency contact.

Policy and personal

There also are policy and personal issues that Human Resources may be able to address in the time of need for a divorcing employee. In terms of absences for court appearances or lawyer appointments, Human Resources and the manager of the divorcing employee may be able to come together to lend a helping hand in the way they form policy, according to HRZone, a media outlet dedicated to Human Resource professionals.

Human Resources also can encourage an open and honest environment with open door policies, where employees going through a divorce feel like they can talk about the situation that they are experiencing. If there is any type of outside assistance in offering emotional support to those in need that is available to employees, Human Resources can recommend the extended support to the employee experiencing a divorce.

During a time of uncertainty, it is important for those experiencing a divorce to feel like they have some semblance of normalcy and have someone in their corner rooting for them. An office can often grow closer, due to their common experiencing in the workplace, and Human Resources and employers can encourage their sense of compassion to those dealing with challenging circumstances.

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