Gray Divorces: The Unexpected Effect on Adult Children

A “gray divorce” is a divorce that occurs when the couple is usually 50+ years old. Couples going through a divorce later in life face unique challenges when it comes to property division, particularly in regard to impending retirement, health insurance, and more substantial accumulated assets.

However, one aspect that is sometimes overlooked is the effect that your divorce will have on your adult children. The truth of the matter is that a divorce is hard on children of any age.

Unique Challenges for Adult Children in Divorces

Adult children face unusual challenges compared to younger children whose parents are going through a divorce. Below are just a few examples of these differences.

1. Parents tend to share more information with their adult children.

Parents of younger children seem to be far more protective of their child’s feelings as they are going through a divorce. It is, unfortunately, a common misconception that adult children will handle divorce better simply because they are adults. This misperception can cause some tension between parent and child.

For example, a parent may be excited to share details about their new dating life or partner. Many adult children do not want this intimate information about their parent, at least not right away after a divorce. Parents may also feel compelled to explain the details of why they are getting a divorce—more information that most adult children do not want to hear right away.

Complaining about the other spouse is also far less filtered when adult children are involved, which may strain the relationship between the child and the other parent.

2. Adult children may question their family relationships.

Gray divorces may often cause adult children to question their own relationships as well. Did their parents stay together for the kids? Did their parents love each other? Who will host upcoming holidays? Confusion and feelings of being overwhelmed are relatively common. Unfortunately, there are also far fewer resources to turn to for help for parents and children alike in these situations.

3. Adult children are far more likely to try to play the role of mediator or    therapist.

It is very tempting for adult children to want to mediate disputes between their parents. They also want to be there for their parents when a parent wants to vent or just needs to talk. Unfortunately, playing this type of role can do more harm than good for the adult child. The child likely needs to air grievances of their own, which the parent may not be capable of handling while they move through the divorce process themselves.

It is essential to keep in mind that it is normal for children of any age to struggle with the confusion and bewilderment that often comes along with divorce. At Topham Family Law, we know that divorce can be painful for people of any age, and we strive to be compassionate and understanding in every situation. If you need help with a Utah “gray divorce” or other family law issue, please contact us today.

Written by Jaime Topham