While most people expect that divorce will be difficult for minor children, many people underestimate the impact that divorce has on adult children. Adult children are also overlooked by the legal system, where they are considered legally irrelevant to the process. While this may make sense from a legal perspective, it reinforces the idea that adult children aren’t impacted by their parents’ divorces.
In this blog, we will discuss a few of the ways adult children are impacted by divorce and how both adult children impacted by divorce and divorcing couples can better cope with this difficult process.
Understanding the Impact of Gray Divorce on Adult Children
Research shows that while the overall divorce rate is falling, the rate of divorce for those over 50 - termed “gray divorce” by the American Association of Retired People (AARP) - is on the rise. For those who are divorcing post-retirement and have adult children, it can be helpful to understand how your divorce may impact your adult children.
The Financial Impact of Divorce on Adult Children
Divorce – no matter at what age or stage of life it occurs – is a difficult experience for all parties involved. Financial decisions made during or after a divorce can have far-reaching implications for adult children, especially for those who become financially and physically responsible for ageing parents. For instance, if you or your ex are struggling to manage financially with your newly divided assets, this could have an impact on your adult children.
Adult children may decide to take on some of their parent's expenses – such as providing them with housing or helping pay bills – if shared familial resources are divided unevenly between spouses. In addition, if one parent has been primarily responsible for managing the family’s finances prior to the divorce, then this shift in responsibility could cause significant stress and confusion about how best to manage money going forward.
For college-aged adult children or adult children who are not yet financially independent, the financial repercussions of divorce could impact their ability to finish college or launch their own careers. In addition, adult children may also struggle to keep up with their own financial responsibilities, such as student loan payments or credit card debt, due to the added stress of managing a parent's new financial obligations.
Divorce can also have an impact on inheritance; depending on how prenuptial agreements were drafted before marriage and what provisions were included in any post-divorce settlements (including division of assets and spousal support), the amount of money an adult child may receive as an inheritance could be drastically altered.
The Emotional Impact of Divorce on Adult Children
Adult children can struggle emotionally with their parents’ divorces as well. At a time when they are beginning their own families, a parents’ divorce can be an unsettling experience. Some adult children find that they are forced to confront issues with relationships and families that they feel unprepared to handle, especially if they have unresolved issues with one or both of their parents.
Adult children may also struggle with the feeling that they should take sides, and they may struggle to accept new people in their parents’ lives; this is particularly true in cases where there is infidelity involved or one parent has moved on and remarried.
It can also be heart-wrenching for adult children to realize that their family will never be the same. Whether it’s annual holiday traditions, their children’s birthdays, even their weddings, things will likely never again be how they’d hoped it would. Divorce can introduce shifts and separations that adult children may find hard to swallow.
Coping Strategies for Adult Children of Divorce
There are several steps adult children can take to help ease the transition of their parents’ divorce. It is important to maintain open lines of communication with both parents. If a situation arises where you need to intervene or provide assistance, communicate your concerns calmly and openly without judgement or blame.
At the same time, it is important to create boundaries between your own life and any legal proceedings that may be going on between your parents. Make sure you are clear about what is considered off limits to discuss with each parent.
How Parents Can Help Their Adult Children Cope with Divorce
It’s important that parents understand that their adult children may have feelings and responses to their divorce that do not coincide with their own hopes. By allowing their adult children the space to grieve, parents are acknowledging that their children are also impacted by the decision to divorce.
It’s also important that parents avoid disparaging each other to their adult children or attempting to convince their children to take sides. Even though your child is an adult, you should avoid using them as your confidante for all your negative feelings about their other parent.
Finally, remember that while your children are entitled to their own feelings, so are you. Your adult children’s negative reaction to your divorce does not mean that your divorce is a mistake. You can be sympathetic to your adult children without being responsible for fixing those feelings.
Seeking Legal Support for a Gray Divorce
At Gille Kaye Law Group, PC, we understand how difficult divorce can be on families. Gray divorces can be especially complicated and our experienced divorce attorneys can provide the vital legal support you need to navigate this process.
If you are considering a divorce, contact us online or call us at (626) 340-0955 to schedule a consultation.