9 Questions every expat spouse should ask (part 3) - Defining Moves | The Art of Successful Relocation

9 Questions Every Expat Partner Should Ask (Part 3)

9 Questions every expat spouse should ask (part 3) - Defining Moves | The Art of Successful Relocation
The Original Portable Career?


7. Who retains custody of any children in the event of a breakdown of the marriage / partnership, and can this be enforced?

We’ve talked about the financial provisions needed to ensure that dependents are taken care of, but as the accompanying partner, you also want to understand how the laws of your home and host nation define your rights as a parent, because there is huge global variation.

The types of family going on international assignment are increasingly diverse, with blended family make-ups and complex parenting and care arrangements, none of which are reflected in many of the host country laws.  In Britain for instance, mothers tend to be given primary custody, while under Sharia law fathers have the greater rights. Same sex partnerships are often not even recognized, or in the worst case, illegal.

So, before you go:

  1. understand your parental rights in your host country.
  2. discuss the issue with your partner to reach a consensus,
  3. include custody as part of your written legal arrangements.

8. Is it possible for me to work, both in legal, financial and practical terms?

Many transferring employers now purchase career support services for the accompanying partner, recognizing the need / desire to continue a career in the new location. But don’t confuse support with legal right to work (as specified by your visa) or the authorization to work (Employment Authorization Document, Social Security number, Tax ID etc).

However, the legal issues are just part of the picture. Ask yourself whether it is feasible for the supporting partner to work in the new location, bearing in mind the potential language and cultural barriers, professional certification requirements, time spent managing the move, childcare requirements, and the need for an understanding employer who will work around the assignment constraints of the primary visa holder.

Happily, with the advent of the internet, Skype, remote working, increasing number of contracted services and Jo Parfitt’s Career in your Suitcase guide, there are a far wider range of options available that reflect the need for flexibility that is required.

9. How does this move affect my career and earning potential long term?

It’s full circle time. Remember our first question, asking “How long will I be going for?”. Here’s the final wake-up call. Many, many spouses have taken a leave of absence and agreed to a short term assignment, only to discover themselves 11 years later on a third continent, having never made it back to work.. (Yes, I speak from experience.)

Realistically, a two year break on your resume can be explained, but more than that and you are starting to look at professional development updates, recertification and the need for more current references. So before you go, consider what your long term career goals are, if any.

If paid employment is important to you, consider whether your current career is portable, whether you can continue it on a remote working basis, whether it has the flexibility and demand to sustain multiple moves, what financial investment is required or whether you can use the relocation as a catalyst for change.

It’s a conundrum. I love the potential for  discovery and reinvention that relocation provides, but at the same time, my lack of planning means that I forfeited ten years of earning potential, pension contributions and resume building. So while it has given me the push to search for purpose rather than simply a pay packet, finding the confidence to re-enter the workforce after ten years is hard, and has required me to start from scratch – with the associated pay scale.


Photo courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums 

3 thoughts on “9 Questions Every Expat Partner Should Ask (Part 3)”

  1. I am so enjoying seeing someone finally telling it like it is! 🙂 I too found myself in the position you outline in point 9. I only realized how vulnerable I had made myself when I decided I wanted to return to the workforce. Fortunately I have a good marriage but it was unpleasant to admit that I could no longer support myself financially and probably never would. Add to that an empty nest, menopause and repatriation and it’s not a pretty picture!

    1. I find it extraordinary that after college, post grad qualifications and ten years in a career, that a one year assignment (!!!) managed to derail my financial independence, and I didn’t take any notice until recently. The bit that also scares me is that we become convinced that our partner’s income stream will never change – which in the current global economy, is incredibly short sighted.

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