How Will my divorce impact my adult children?

When you are divorcing your long-term spouse, one question you might ask is, “How will my divorce impact my adult children?” While many people worry about the effect of divorce on minor children, the difficulty for adult children can often be overlooked. The legal system typically deems them legally irrelevant to their parent’s divorce process. While it makes legal sense, it perpetuates the misconception that adult children are not affected by the divorce.

The Rise of Gray Divorce

“Gray divorce,” a term coined by the American Association of Retired People (AARP), refers to the increasing trend of older couples who are divorcing after decades of marriage. It has been on the rise globally and can present unique challenges, such as retirement and asset division, additional emotional complexities, and the impact on the couple’s adult children.

Adult Children Can Become Caught in the Middle

When minor children are caught in the middle of a divorce, they can experience emotional turmoil, distress, feelings of being torn between their parents, and other things that impact their overall well-being. It is always recommended that you keep your children out of the middle of your divorce, but this advice is not always extended to adult children.

Adult children can experience:

  • Being called to testify about one parent’s behavior.
  • Treated as a personal confidant or counselor by a divorcing parent.
  • Having to listen to one parent attacking the other parent.
  • Being put into a position of having to support their parents, such as allowing one to move in with them, paying for bills, etc.
  • Being pressured to take sides.
  • Being used as messengers to communicate with their parents.

Even though adult children have more emotional maturity to process the situation, parents need to recognize and respect their adult children’s boundaries and be aware of the additional effects that the divorce could have on them, such as financially or emotionally.

Financial Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

Financial choices in or after divorce can significantly affect adult children, particularly if they have to become financially and physically responsible for aging parents. Suppose you or their other parent is struggling financially after dividing property and assets. In that case, adult children may decide to take on some of your expenses, like helping with housing or paying bills. Additionally, if one parent had been in charge of the finances for the majority of the marriage, a shift in responsibility could cause stress or confusion for the other.

If the adult children are college-aged or not yet financially independent, the repercussions of the divorce could create difficulty in finishing college or taking their first steps in their careers. The adult children may then struggle to keep up with their financial responsibilities if there is the added stress of managing their parent’s new financial obligations.

Divorce can also change how much money each adult child will receive as inheritance.

Emotional Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

Emotionally, adult children can find their parents’ divorces difficult, especially if they’re starting their own families or pursuing relationships. They may feel like they should take sides or might struggle to accept potential new partners in their parents’ lives.

It can also be agonizing for adult children to come to terms with the fact that their family will never be the same. From birthdays, annual holiday traditions, or future weddings, things will not be the way they thought or hoped they would be. This can all be difficult for adult children to come to terms with.


Q: How Can I Help My Adult Child Through My Divorce?

A: Parents must recognize that their adult children may not react to their divorce as they expect. Allowing space for your children to grieve acknowledges the emotional impact they are experiencing. Don’t forget that while your children are entitled to their feelings, their negative reactions should not make you feel like you are making the wrong choice.

Q: Should I Involve My Adult Children in the Divorce Process?

A: Choosing to involve your adult children in the divorce process can be tricky. Their input may be valuable for certain decisions, but you should always consider their emotional well-being and boundaries before discussing major decisions with them. Some might not want to be included, while others may feel valued and respected if you do include them. Nevertheless, you should avoid burdening them with details or conflicts that should remain with your divorce attorney, therapist, or ex-spouse.

Q: How Can I Navigate Family Events and Holidays With My Adult Children After a Divorce?

A: You should communicate openly with your adult children about approaching family gatherings and holidays. Ask for their input and preferences, be open to listening and accommodating their needs, respect any boundaries your adult children may have, and respect their choices. You could even consider starting new traditions or activities to create new opportunities for connection and moving forward.

Q: Will the Divorce Impact My Adult Children’s Mental Health or Well-Being?

A: While your adult children are most likely independent and have their own lives, a divorce can deeply affect their mental health and well-being. Emotionally, they may experience feelings of sadness, anger, or confusion. Some might even grapple with identity issues. Family relationships could be strained, there could be financial worries, and changing roles may add stress. Keep in mind that everyone who is going through their parents’ divorce will have different emotions and experiences.

Q: What Age Is Most Affected by Their Parents’ Divorce?

A: The impact of divorce on children depends on the child’s developmental stage and temperament, any existing conflicts between parents, the quality of the parent-child relationship, and the level of support and resources available. Parents should provide reassurance, stability, and open communication to help children cope with the challenges of divorce, regardless of their age.

An Experienced Advocate and Family Law Attorney on Your Side

If you are planning to divorce from your spouse, the experienced family law attorney at the Law Offices of Patricia A. Rigdon can provide support to couples. We can help resolve divorce issues and family conflicts through litigation, mediation, and collaborative family law. To set up a consultation, contact our office today.