In recent decades there has been a rise in the rate of couples getting divorced after the age of 50, even as the overall divorce rate has fallen. The American Association of Retired People (AARP) has termed this phenomenon “gray divorce.” Researchers have found that as the stigma surrounding divorce has fallen, people’s willingness to leave unhappy marriages has risen, especially as their children leave home and grow into adulthood.
Couples are finding that as their children leave the nest, the pressure to remain married diminishes. However, it’s important to keep in mind that adult children can still be impacted by their parents’ divorce. By understanding and keeping these impacts in mind while going through a divorce, couples divorcing later in life can help their adult children cope with these changes.
Emotional Impacts of Gray Divorce on Adult Children
Even if your children are grown, they may still feel keenly the loss of their parents’ marriage. Bearing in mind that your adult child is better equipped to work through their feelings, it can still help to be sensitive to how unsettling this process may feel for them, especially if your divorce comes as a surprise.
A divorce can also shift a child’s relationship with one or more of their parents. In some cases, they may already be closer to one parent than the other, and they may struggle to maintain a relationship with their other parent when it is no longer being facilitated through the parent to which they are closer.
This can be especially true if their parents push them to take sides. As with younger children, it’s best to refrain from pressuring your child to take a side in the divorce. Allowing them to work through their relationship with each of you independently and without judgment can help them process the divorce in a healthier way.
It can be hard when you are going through a divorce and finding your own life in upheaval to sympathize with your adult children’s complicated emotional responses to your divorce. However, giving them space to feel whatever they are feeling without the pressure of your judgment and while knowing that it isn’t your responsibility to “fix” their feelings can help you all move forward as a family.
Practical Considerations for Gray Divorce with Adult Children
There are also practical considerations when it comes to gray divorce that may impact a couple’s adult children. Because the practical impact of divorce can be particularly jarring post-retirement, so too can the impacts on adult children be unexpectedly unsettling.
When going through a divorce later in life, you may want to consider how your divorce will impact your adult children logistically. While there may be no need to negotiate child custody, you will likely want to discuss whether you are comfortable spending time with your adult children and their families together. If you are both able to maintain an amicable relationship going forward, family gatherings will likely be much easier logistically for everyone involved, and you will both likely be able to spend more time with your children and grandchildren.
However, this is not always possible. If your divorce is contentious or you don’t get along well with your ex, you may have to figure out a way to spend time with your children at separate times. You’ll need to consider what this will mean for holidays, birthdays, and other important events like weddings.
If either you or your spouse has health issues and is likely to require long-term care, you may need to have a conversation with your children about making a plan for that care. Your children may not have expected to need to provide for your physical care in your later years, but this may become a new reality with which you will all need to grapple.
When couples divorce near or post-retirement, the financial impact can be enormous. If your earning potential has waned or you are already dependent on your retirement savings, it can be hard to recover from the realities of property division and spousal support that are a typical part of many gray divorces.
For adult children, this can mean they may feel responsible for supporting one or both parents financially in ways they may have not anticipated. If your adult children choose to take responsibility for some of the bills, for instance, this may be a difficult undertaking, especially if they are still finding their way in their own career or building their own family. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help ensure that any financial settlement is fair and adequate for your long-term needs.
Divorcing later in life can also create issues with inheritance that you and your ex may need to discuss. At Palmer Rodak & Associates, our team of experienced attorneys is well-versed in both family and estate law, and we can help protect your rights and interests. From negotiating your divorce settlement to ensuring that you have a will in place that reflects your wishes, we are committed to helping couples navigate gray divorce with compassion and dignity. We understand how difficult this process can be and that you may have concerns about how your divorce will impact your adult children. We are here to help you through this.
Contact us online or call us at (760) 573-2223 to schedule a consultation.