Is a Complicated Criminal Record & Divorce Hurting My Job Search?

From time to time, we get reader questions, and sometimes I like to share with the blog. This one hit home for me as I am a domestic abuse survivor and a woman who went through divorce. HR professionals: what steps and suggestions would you recommend? 

Is a Complicated Criminal Record & Divorce Hurting My Job Search?

Dear Jessica,

I have a rather unique and sensitive HR question. I am in the middle of a nasty divorce from my husband. It was a domestic abuse situation. Its very common for the abuser to file some sort of criminal charges against their victims, which is what he did. He is a former attorney. It is a misdemeanor and it has not been adjudicated yet. I was laid off from my position in February, and I am currently looking for another opportunity. My question is, in your experience, do charges (that haven’t been settled yet) show up in a background check and how should I handle this with potential employers.

My attorney is confident that I will be found not guilty, considering that I was the victim in the marriage, but I can’t figure out a good way to mitigate this.


How to I Disclose My Misdemeanor Charge to a Potential Employer?

My email response to Susan is below. How does she disclose her misdemeanor charge to her potential employer and explain the circumstances as a survivor of divorce and domestic abuse? 

Hi Susan,

It is probably not in the system yet since it is not yet adjudicated. I would suggest running a criminal background check on yourself to see if the misdemeanor charge is present in your criminal records. Don’t take the word of your attorney and run the background check yourself. When a company runs the background check as part of the post job offer process, they will ask you if you have any prior convictions so just be honest. If something comes up on the background check, you have the right to present documentation so long as you provided the information in the background check authorization form.

If I offered someone a job, I would try to be understanding of your information as long as you could provide supporting documentation. This means also information from your attorney and most importantly the court case. I’m a domestic abuse survivor myself so I completely understand. Divorce brings out the very ugly side of people. I know personally. Unfortunately, not everyone will be as accommodating so preparation is key. I am of the personal belief, that if any company gives you the stink eye over this, you probably didn’t want to work for them anyway.

I would suggest talking to someone like at YWCA or other women’s domestic group that can provide you assistance in possibly covering the criminal background check if it’s not something you can afford. The key is preparation beforehand so that you have the information to approach the situation best for yourself and in your job search.

Is there anything I missed? What suggestions do you have for this Susan and the others who are in similar situations like hers. Please leave a comment below. 



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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.


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