Most people can’t hit the “pause” button on life when they’re going through a divorce. They still have to get up in the morning, get dressed and go to work – even though every bone in their body tells them there’s no way they’ll accomplish any task productively. While many employers offer some sort of counseling options in their benefits packages, some people are asking if business should do more to support their employees during a divorce. According to a former justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, the answer is yes.
Rebecca Love Kourlis, now executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), recently published an article called “It Is Just Good Business: The Case for Supporting Reform in Divorce Court.” In it, she opines that employers do have a stake in how family courts handle divorces.
A stressed-out employee is a less productive employee, Kourlis notes. She pinpoints several studies showing that divorcing workers “make more mistakes; work more slowly; and if they are feeling angry, project that anger onto colleagues and customers.” Divorce can also contribute to increased numbers of absences and tardiness – in some cases, because people are attending long, drawn-out divorce proceedings.
Kourlis also says that employee assistance programs, while helpful, do not necessarily help with major things that spouses must figure out, such as how to split their lives and learn new skills that come with becoming a one-parent household. She adds that the adversarial nature of the court system is “ill-suited to the resolution of family disputes,” and that children often suffer for it.
Kourlis also pointed out that family courts are dealing with complicated parenting issues not only in cases of divorce, but also among same-sex families, never-married couples and those who are living together.
So why should businesses care? In an interview with the Huffington Post, Kourlis says that the loss of employee productivity and time can cost them millions. She urges them to support family court reform efforts because “not only is it good practice, it’s good business.”
IAALS just launched its Honoring Families program, which is examining ways to make family courts more supportive and effective for parents and children as they struggle through the divorce process.