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How Does Divorce Affect Adult Children?

From high-profile celebrities to next-door neighbors, more couples are splitting up later in life. For some, these breakups are from second or third marriages, while others have been married 25 years or longer.

According to the Pew Research Center, the divorce rate has tripled among those 65 and older over the last 20 years. The number of so-called gray divorces has remained high ever since. Conversely, the divorce rate among 25- to 39-year-olds has dropped 21% (though more divorces still happen in this age group). The couples involved in gray divorces often have adult children.

No matter the age of the spouses, the length of the marriage, or the ages of their children, no divorce process is easy.

Emotional Impacts of Divorce on Adult Children

Since adult children are generally out of the house and living their own lives, many older divorcing parents incorrectly believe that the split will only have a minor effect on their grown kids. Whether the kids are 21 or 41 years old, their parents’ divorce may have them question many things about their entire childhood. Their feelings of loss, anger, and sadness can be intense.

Adult children may have these emotional questions about their parents’ split:

  • Did they ever really love each other?
  • Did they stay together only to raise the kids?
  • Has either parent started a new relationship?
  • How will we handle the holidays?
  • What will happen to my childhood memorabilia?
  • Will I have to choose a side?
  • How will I explain their divorce to my children?
  • Is my own relationship going to last?

There are additional questions beyond those that weigh on their heart. Some adult children also have practical questions about finances.

Financial Impacts of Divorce on Adult Children

The stinging emotional questions are usually the first thoughts that flood the adult child’s mind, but then more practical questions surface.

Depending on the age of the adult child, they might have some of these questions:

  • Will my parents still help pay for my college?
  • Will one of my parents need to move in with me?
  • Will my parents sell the childhood home?
  • Will one or both parents move farther away?
  • Will I have to help with maintaining the yard and house?

It is common for adult children to worry about how their parents’ finances will be altered by divorce. The change may not only affect the divorcing couple but the adult children as well.

How Parents Can Help Adult Children

When parents choose to divorce, they generally take great care in how they will tell minor children. The same care should be used when telling adult children.

Tips to help parents to help adult children cope with divorce:

  • How you tell your children matters. If possible, both parents should tell all their children together, in person. This is not an appropriate announcement for a text message.
  • Don’t treat your children like your therapist, and don’t overshare.
  • Don’t badmouth the other parent to get your child’s sympathy.
  • Don’t ask your children to mediate conflicts.
  • If you are selling the childhood home, give your children the opportunity to gather anything of sentimental value.

Older children might be able to process their feelings better than toddlers, but divorce will not be easy for them. Anything parents can do that gives their children time and space to grieve and to ask questions can help them find some stability during this huge adjustment.

Compassionate Legal Counsel for Your Divorce

Our skilled lawyers understand that divorce is difficult for everyone, including adult children. There is no legal consideration (custody, support) for adult children, but divorcing parents should know their split can have wide-ranging and far-reaching impacts on adult children.

If you are considering divorce, lean on the more than 150 years of experience we have at McIntyre Tate LLP. Whether you have been married two years or more than two decades, our extensive background in divorce and family law can help you navigate each step and process in your divorce.

Schedule your consultation with our experienced counsel by calling (401) 351-7700. You can also reach out through our online form and someone from our office will get back to you promptly.

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