3 Big Ways Professional Women Get Screwed Over In Divorce

Your marriage wasn't 50/50, neither will your divorce be.

Last updated on Jun 01, 2024

Ways Professional Women Get Screwed Over When Going Through Divorce Peopleimages.com - YuriArcurs, Bruchin Noeka, breeze393 | Canva

I know you. You’re smart. You’re persistent. You’re goal-oriented. You’ve worked hard your whole life. How do I know you? I was you. I spent 20 years in Corporate America before becoming a divorce coach. From that perspective and that of my clients, I have something very important to tell you: The system is rigged against you. As a professional woman, it’s rigged against you even more than anyone else. Why? You mistakenly believe you’re on an equal playing field. But you haven’t been. Not in your career. Not in your marriage. Not in your divorce. 50/50 doesn’t actually exist in life, especially when going through a divorce. And if you insist on acting like it does, unaware of how to get over a divorce and move on with your life, it will screw you in three, very clear ways. This is how divorce affects women such as yourself.


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Here are 3 big ways professional women get screwed over in divorce:

1. Your need for control ends up working against you in the long run.

You bought into the idea that you can earn an equal place in your career through hard work, drive, and persistence. You’re proud of your ability to get things done. You believe that you can change the playing field, that you can control the circumstances, and that you can manipulate the outcome. You believe that your ability to control everything around you is the very foundation of your success. It isn’t. 


For all of your hard work, you get paid less, receive less recognition, and are promoted less than your male peers. Regardless of what you do, Corporate America is rigged against you.

And guess what? The minute you stepped outside traditional gender roles, your marriage was rigged against you as well. Why? The very characteristics that contribute to your success at work are the same ones that sabotage your marriage. Who does everything in your marriage? You do. Why? Because you believe your inherent value is defined by what you do. And there’s a double standard that says you’re supposed to. You’re bringing home the bacon, frying it up in a pan, and never letting him forget he’s a man because you’re the one who gets it done, right?

That’s not 50/50. That’s exhausting. You’ve achieved success by working a lot harder than everyone else, including your husband, but at what cost? Hard truth: People treat you the way you treat them and that includes your husband, your lawyer, and a judge. You can’t control the divorce process. It can’t be made into what you want through hard work and sheer force of will. Success is about shifting your focus away from him and center it on you. It’s about creating boundaries that reinforce and support the real you. Only when you achieve a measure of control over yourself can you influence what happens around you. And if you don’t start playing your own game in your divorce, you truly will screw yourself.

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2. Your success means you'll have to pay out more in your divorce.

You’re not like other women. Focusing on your career has given you achievement, independence, and financial control. You’ve never "depended" on a man. So, you’re not afraid of divorce. To you, it’s just another challenge in a long list of challenges you always overcome. And unlike other women, you have the money to hire a great lawyer to protect you. At the very least, everything will get split 50/50, right? Wrong. Yes, the court wants 50/50 agreements, but it doesn’t mean what you think. It doesn’t mean that you and your husband split joint assets in half and each takes away 50 percent.

What really happens is all of your hard-earned assets (which you likely think are solely yours) are combined with all of his assets. Your combined assets are then equalized, meaning that whoever has more — either you or your ex — gives more so that you're each walking away with the same amount. If you’re bringing home all the bacon, then you’ll be losing a lot of it in your divorce. And it doesn’t end there. You might owe him alimony for several years. And if you have children together, then you’ll be paying him child support, even with 50/50 custody. Now, you have to work really hard. You have no choice. There’s no getting off the hamster wheel now that a precedent has been set in court around your ability to make money (i.e., your capacity).

Hard truth: You’ve busted butt in your career to get where you are now. You’ve been successful regardless of unequal pay, unequal opportunity, or unequal recognition. And yet, if you earn more than your husband, you’re the financial loser in divorce. The system screws you because of your success. So be smart, pick your battles, and stay true to yourself. You’ll lose money in your divorce, but you can minimize the damage by avoiding costly delays and unnecessary legal fees. It means you need to show up, be present, and unleash your power in this process. And remember, freedom is priceless, right?

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3. You'll feel like a failure.

Divorce is a common occurrence with almost half of the population dissolving their marriage contracts. Yet, there is an underlying belief that divorce equals failure — for you, not your husband. Why? Traditional gender roles applaud men for professional success, without any regard for their personal lives. Think: Donald Trump, Sumner Redstone, Larry Ellison — all famous, successful businessmen who have been divorced at least twice. Yet, no one considers them failures. No one equates their divorce with who they are. The same isn’t true for women. If your marriage isn’t working, it hasn’t failed — you have. You are the failure. It’s supposed to be your responsibility, so it must be your fault. That stigma of failure doesn’t just punch you in the gut during your very personal divorce, it also becomes a black mark that gets carried into your professional life.  

And that black mark will screw you if you internalize it. If you believe that you are a failure, you will make it true. And that belief will hijack your confidence, effectiveness, and future opportunity. You’ll find yourself falling down — or off — the corporate ladder. So, don’t let that happen. Don’t believe divorce equals failure. As the exception that proves the rule, Zsa Zsa Gabor was divorced many times and was still a successful businesswoman. Her secret to success? She never internalized divorce as a failure. Instead, she used it to her advantage. And so can you. Choose what you want to believe. Apply your professional strengths to this process. And use your divorce as an opportunity to deepen and grow those strengths into a more meaningful, authentic leadership that serves you in every part of your life.

Hard truth: It’s a matter of perspective. You can believe that divorce is a failure and create that. Or, you can believe that divorce is an opportunity for transformation and create that. The first perspective makes you a victim. You’re not that. I know you, remember? You’re a fighter. So, choose the second perspective. Use your experience going through a divorce as a springboard into greater opportunity, transformation, and leadership. Don’t wait for an outcome to be handed to you. Create the outcome you want.


Everything you thought you were doing right will be used against you in your divorce. It’s unfair. Life is unfair. The court system is unfair. Succeeding in this process is not about working hard or doing more or depending on your lawyer. The key to success — in your life, this divorce, and your career — is changing your mindset, connecting to your strengths, and making decisions based on what’s most important to you, not anyone else. You are not defined by your divorce. You are not defined by what you do. You are not defined by gender roles. You are not defined by what others think. You choose what defines you. When you do that, nothing can screw you.

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Laura Miolla is the founder and CEO of Smart Divorce Strategy, is a Professional Certified Coach (CPCC and PCC), Mediator, and Parentology Coach. She's a contributor to Thought Catalog, Medium, Huffington Post, Babble, Parents Magazine, among many others.