Adult Child with Anxious Elderly Mother

Adult Child with Anxious Elderly Mother

Regardless of how long a marriage lasts, whether it is 3 years or 30 years, divorce is still very difficult and at times, an ugly process.  However, in cases of grey divorce, that is the divorce of married couples over the age of 50, the process can be especially long and painful due the involvement of other parties such as adult children.  It is important for grey couples who are seeking divorce to consider the impact of their divorce on their adult children but also remember that they are in charge of their own decisions during the divorce and should make their decisions based on their best interests moving forward.

The Increasing Rate of Grey Divorce

The rate of grey divorce has been on the rise in recent years as more couples are filing for divorce past the age of 50.  The increase in the number of grey divorces is due to the following reasons:

  • Less stigma around divorce: There is more of a stigma when it comes to divorce among older generations which may have played a role in preventing some older couples from divorcing. The softening stigma of divorce has made couples over 50 more likely to file for divorce than in previous generations.
  • Life expectancy: Many people in their 50s believe they could have 30 to 40 years left to live because of increasing life expectancy. Because of this, people in their 50s may be less willing to spend what they believe could be several more decades in an unhappy marriage.
  • Age of children: Couples over 50 who have adult children feel less compelled to stay together for the sake of their children because they are older. However, grey divorce does still affect adult children.

How adult children affect grey divorce?

Divorce cases for mature couples are inherently more painful and nerve-racking because each person is losing a partner with whom they have spent the bulk of their adult lives.  What often complicates these cases even more is the presence of adult children.  Adult children tend to influence the divorce case by either prolonging the process or increasing the contention level of the situation, especially in cases involving stepchildren or children from previous marriages.

The most common way adult children make a grey divorce more contentious is by taking a side with one parent.  This often happens when a child perceives wrongdoing on the part of one parent or if a stepchild feels like the spouse is taking advantage of his or her parent.  Adult children can also prolong the divorce process by expressing their own emotions, opinions, goals, and expectations which usually divide parties and make reaching a settlement much more difficult.

Many adult children involve themselves in the divorce process because they believe they are helping their parents through such a difficult time, but they are typically only impeding the process.  Divorcing adults must remember that they alone make the decisions surrounding their divorce case and although seeking advice from friends and family is recommended, they should have the ultimate say in the outcome of such a life-changing event.

How grey divorce affects adult children?

Even though many believe that adult children are better able to handle the divorce of their parents than young children, it is still a difficult situation.  The reality is that adult children can be hurt and traumatized by the divorce of their parents just like younger children.

Adult children may be traumatized by the divorce of their older parents for the following reasons:

  • They may not seek help from professionals or confide in friends and family about the divorce because they feel like they should be handling it better. This can lead to more mental anguish.
  • Adult children may feel a need to take sides or harbor resentment towards their parents for not previously sharing the trouble in their marriage.
  • Adult children may feel betrayed and wonder if the happy memories they have with their parents and family were genuine.
  • The loss of sentimental assets such as the marital home that may have been in the family for decades can add to the sadness felt by adult children.

When older couples are getting divorced, it is common for them to confide in their children because they feel more comfortable talking to them about these issues as adults.  However, adult children are still children and may not want to know about the ugly details of the divorce.  Giving them too much information can add to the emotional toll they are already experiencing.  The division of assets can also be a sensitive subject as adult children are more aware of the implications of asset division and may have a personal stake in the matter.  With the division of assets, divorcing grey couples also must address issues concerning wills, power of attorney, and health care as well as their children’s inheritance.

How couples can make a grey divorce easier on their children?

As described above, grey divorce can have a major impact on adult children.  Divorcing couples can help make the process easier on their adult children by considering the following:

  • Breaking the news: It is best to tell all your children at once about your divorce so that they hear about it directly from you first. When talking to your adult children, make sure you clarify the reason for the divorce and help them understand that the divorce is between you and your spouse, and does not involve them.
  • Don’t share everything: You do not have to tell your adult children all of the details of why you are getting divorced or what will happen in the aftermath of the divorce. After informing them of the divorce and explaining your reasoning, allow them to ask questions and listen to their concerns.  You should not dump all of the drama on your children or confide in them, you are their parent, and they need to be able to confide in you.
  • Encourage continuing relationships: Divorcing grey couples should encourage their children to continue to have relationships with the other parent as well as that parent’s extended family. It is important to emphasize that you do not expect your children to take sides in the divorce.
  • Accept their reactions: Try to be accepting of your children’s reactions, no matter how they react. In some cases, adult children may be upset but continue to be in touch with both parents while in other cases, adult children might need a period of estrangement to process the situation.  Remember, your children did not ask for the divorce and may not be happy about it, so you need to let them control their reactions to it.
  • Introduce new relationships slowly: It can be difficult for adult children to see their parents in a new relationship after seeing them together for so many years. New relationships may remind them of what they lost or make them feel as if their access to their parent is threatened.  If you are starting a new relationship after your divorce, make sure you maintain one on one contact with your children and introduce your new partner to your children in a way that makes them feel comfortable.
  • Think about the future: The divorce will pass and those involved will create a better life for themselves. Keep in mind throughout the process that one of your goals is to maintain your relationships with our children and once the divorce passes, your relationships with your adult children may get even stronger.

How adult children can manage grey divorce?

It is important for adult children to manage the divorce of their parents in a way that best helps them cope with the situation.  The following are important tips for adult children:

  • Try your best to stay neutral and avoid taking sides. You should let both parents know of your neutrality but also emphasize that you will not allow yourself to be caught in the middle.  Cases involving physical or emotional abuse or infidelity may be exceptions to this.
  • Continue to invite both of your parents to family events and let them know that the other was also invited so they can choose whether they want to be in the same place as their ex-spouse.
  • Show your parents patience as they adjust to living alone. It may be difficult for older adults to live alone after a long marriage.
  • Encourage your parents to confide in peers or counseling professionals to help them deal with their emotions. This is more beneficial for you and your parents than having them confide in you for support.
  • Adult children must discuss the divorce with their own children in an honest manner that is also age appropriate. Be transparent about how family dynamics surrounding holidays and special events will change but reassure them that their grandparents still love them and that they will still get to visit with both of their grandparents.
  • Adult children should do their best to stay out of the affairs of their parents and continue to focus on their own lives, including their careers and children. If you are having a hard time coping with your parents’ divorce, you can seek help from a therapist or support group.

What age is a child most affected by divorce?

Children can be affected by the divorce of their parents at any age, including into adulthood.  However, children are the most affected by divorce between the ages of 3 and 15.  Children beyond the age of 15 are more likely to understand the circumstances surrounding a divorce and accept the situation.

At what age are children least impacted by divorce?

Children under two years old are the least likely to be impacted by divorce because they have not yet developed the abilities to be aware of the change on a cognitive level.  However, children this young can sense the change on an emotional level.

What are the effects of a grey divorce?

A grey divorce can have unique financial implications for the divorcing couple that younger couples may not face.  In a grey divorce, pension plans and retirement accounts must be divided, one spouse may lose access to healthcare from the other spouse’s employer, alimony may be difficult to determine, especially if one spouse is retired, and the spouse losing healthcare may have a difficult time finding affordable health insurance.  Spouses in a grey divorce also have less time to recoup losses in earnings, savings, and retirement.

Can grey divorce be financially devastating?

Grey divorce must be managed properly, or it could be financially devastating, especially for a spouse that has spent years out of the workforce.  This spouse may lose the health insurance they had through their spouse and have a difficult time finding affordable healthcare, especially if they are not old enough for Medicare.  It is also difficult for divorcing spouses over 60 to work long enough to recoup the losses in savings, earnings, retirement, and marital property.

Work with a Divorce Attorney

The divorce attorneys of Allen Gabe Law, P.C. are well aware of these common difficulties of grey divorce and we handle each divorce case with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity to ensure it is settled as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Contact Allen Gabe Law, P.C. at (847) 241-5000, ext. 121 for legal advice on matters concerning grey divorce.

CategoryDivorce Law

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