How Adult Children are Affected by Divorce

My parents divorced after 42 years of marriage. It was a horrible experience for me and my sister. Divorces in older couples are often called “gray divorces.” The adult children of these couples may be severely affected by divorce, just as young children are. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of a gray divorce is that parents may feel they can turn to their adult children to vent. However, many adult children feel as though they have to take sides when one parent complains about the other. Whether a child is 4, 14, 24 or 34, matters between parents should remain private.

Even if adult children have not lived at home with their parents for years, divorce is extremely disruptive. Holidays will never be quite the same. One’s childhood home may be sold. It can be especially hard for adult children to accept a new love interest of a divorced parent. Adult children who have kids of their own may resent having to explain why this new person is with Grandma or Grandpa. Similarly, the new partner may have children of his or her own, further complicating visits, birthdays, and holidays.

Gray divorces will likely also have financial effects on adult children. After paying for the expenses of a divorce, some parents may no longer be able to offer assistance to their children, such as helping with college tuition. Things can become especially complicated if a parent remarries. In many states, at death, the deceased’s estate transfers to the spouse—meaning that unless a will lays out the exact wishes of the parent, the children may be bypassed completely.