For most couples seeking a gray divorce, any children they may have are most likely grown and out of the home. This helps ease negotiations as child support and custody aren’t typically part of the conversation.
However, to say gray divorce doesn’t have an effect on the children isn’t entirely accurate. In some instances, it can be devastating to adult children who have few resources for processing their grief. This may surprise some, considering how much gray divorce has increased since 1990.
One of the main concerns your adult children may have during a gray divorce is how to spend quality time with both parents – particularly if they have their own children. Giving equal time to both sets of grandparents can already be difficult for a married couple, and that looks more complicated if one set of grandparents doesn’t live together anymore.
You don’t need a custody plan, but you will still need to determine how the family will spend time together. Are family holidays to be shared as they have been in the past, or separate after the divorce? How will you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse spend time with your grandchildren equally?
As you are going through divorce negotiations, discuss what plan would work best for both parties. It may be healthiest to spend that time separately or to “co-grandparent” together during sleepovers, grandparent visits and holidays. Make a decision and bring your suggestions to your adult children to make sure they know you respect their opinions and schedules, as well.
Your children may depend on you for financial support, or you may have a savings plan or trust set up for them. Regardless, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will probably need to discuss how to maintain the financial security of the family. Consider working with an attorney experienced in gray divorce who can help manage those assets. Have frank discussions with your children about what you can afford and how you are working them into your financial future as a divorced couple.
The possible emotional toll a divorce can take on a child doesn’t end when they turn 18. They will likely still need the kind of reassurance and care from you that they would need if they were still minors. Even as adults, your children still need their parents.
Reaching out to them to ask how they’re feeling about the divorce and letting them express themselves will help them know you are still there for them and care about their emotions. And no matter how contentious the divorce becomes, try not to bring your adult children into it just as you would avoid pitting your minor children against a parent in divorce proceedings.
A divorce after a long-term marriage can be difficult for the entire family, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Have open communication with everyone and no matter what happens, let your children and grandchildren know they are loved just the same as they always have been.