Divorce later in life, possibly after decades of marriage, has become a relatively common phenomenon in the United States. People dissatisfied with their relationships and craving happiness in their golden years may decide to pursue a gray divorce, which is the term for a divorce that occurs between people who are over the age of 50.
Gray divorce often results in a variety of unique challenges that people have to address. Many people recognize that there will likely be financial challenges related to a gray divorce because they have to share equity in a home they have already fully paid off or find a way to divide retirement savings without compromising either spouse’s quality of life.
Many parents with adult children assume that the family won’t have to worry much about child-related conflict because the kids no longer live at home. However, the reality is that older children can be as emotional about parental divorce as teenagers and even younger children.
Older children will probably take sides
The general advice most mental health experts give parents during divorce is to not put the children in the middle of the conflict. When children do not feel like they have to take a side, it will be easier for them to maintain a healthy relationship with both of their parents post-divorce. Adult children will likely take a side once they hear about the divorce.
Once someone’s kids have grown up and started their own families, they will generally have strong opinions about family responsibilities. They might therefore blame the parent who filed for divorce or someone who cheated for the dissolution of the family unit. Unlike young adults, who will have to abide by a court custody order that requires that they spend time with both parents, adult children can choose to cut off one parent and cease communicating with them. They might rescind their invitation to family holiday gatherings and birthday parties for grandchildren.
Those preparing for a gray divorce may want to consider having a sit-down conversation with the entire family present. Having a counselor mediate the discussion could be a viable option if parents anticipate their adult children having a particularly strong reaction to the terms of the divorce.
There is no guarantee concerning how the children will react, so parents need to prepare for the possibility that it may take some time to rebuild a relationship with their children and grandchildren following a gray divorce. Recognizing and preparing for the unique challenges of divorce later in life can help people pursue their optimal happiness in their golden years without sacrificing their most important relationships and standard of living in the process.