Divorce reshapes not just the lives of a couple but the entire family, even if the children are grown. It is not unusual for a couple with grown adult children to think that their divorce won’t have a significant impact on their kids because they are no longer living in the family home. The reality is that divorce leaves a lasting effect on the children regardless of their age. Our firm’s founder, New York Divorce Attorney Andrea Vacca, experienced this firsthand when her parents divorced while she was in college. Having to watch her parents go through a tough divorce and not speak for 10 years afterwards was difficult, but it has also helped shape the vision of her law firm, which seeks to help families navigate divorce with as little acrimony as possible.
Here are some insights and practical guidelines to make divorcing with adult children less destructive on the family:
1. The Announcement
An adult child of divorcing parents may find that their emotional world mirrors that of younger family members. The announcement of a separation, even if expected, can still shake the foundations of a family that once seemed unbreakable. As with younger children, both parents should be present when telling their adult children about the decision to divorce and they should plan in advance for how they will break this news. Even if one parent did not want the divorce, it’s best for your children (regardless of their age) to see their parents as aligned as possible and not blaming the other for the end of the marriage.
2. Parental Behavior
The behavior of the parents during and after the divorce significantly influences how the adult children will experience the divorce. One parent's refusal to communicate or to be present during significant life events can create an emotionally charged atmosphere. If a parent is not engaged with their adult children or refuses to speak to the other parent, there is an even greater sense of loss.
3. Managing High-Conflict Scenarios
In cases of high conflict, adult children can feel caught in the crossfire and struggle to navigate the complexities of their parents' divorce independently. Managing the emotional toll can become a long personal journey. This underscores the importance of opting for a divorce process that minimizes conflict and prioritizes the well-being of all family members. This is one of the many advantages of using the collaborative divorce process or mediation.
4. The First Post-Divorce Holidays
The initial holiday season following the parents' divorce can be especially challenging. The shift from a shared family home to two separate spaces can evoke a sense of loss. Returning to a once-familiar place that no longer feels like home can stir up a range of emotions. The contrast between parents' new living arrangements may add complexity to these feelings. To help offset these emotions, try starting new holiday traditions. This is an opportunity for the divorcing parents to show how the restructured family will still be a family.
5. The Benefits of the Collaborative Divorce Process
The divorce process you choose plays a pivotal role in shaping the aftermath for adult children. The collaborative divorce process encourages a forward-focused approach, avoiding the rehashing of past grievances. The neutral divorce professionals play an important role in helping to reduce conflict. It is also a process that can allow the divorcing couple to preserve family relationships and not destroy them as often occurs in the adversarial litigation process.
6. Keep Your Adult Children Out of Your Divorce
As parents navigate the complexities of divorce, it is important for them to keep focused on the children’s well-being. Both parents should prioritize seeking therapy to process their own emotions and steer clear of burdening their adult children with lingering anger and resentment. Parents should neither use adult children as mediators in parental disputes nor should they ask their adult children to take sides.
7. Putting Your Children First
Your children need to be your primary focus during the divorce process as well as in the years that follow. Choosing a divorce process that minimizes conflict, seeking professional help when needed, and fostering open communication all help to contribute to a healthier post-divorce environment for everyone involved.
8. A Closing Message for Adult Children
If you are an adult child who is trying to navigate the complexities of your parents' divorce, remember that your experience is valid and you have the right to ask your parents to keep you out of their conflict. Regardless of your age, it will be difficult to see you parents in pain and experience the changes in your family structure. This is not the time to suffer in silence. Getting professional support when needed is essential so that you can prioritize your well-being while still keeping healthy lines of communication open with your parents.
Contact Vacca Family Law Group
At Vacca Family Law Group, we understand the unique challenges associated with a divorce that involves adult children. Our collaborative attorneys and mediators can offer tailored advice to help you make informed decisions. Call us at 212-768-1115 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
Vacca Family Law Group is located at One Grand Central Place, 60 E. 42nd St. #764, New York, NY 10165.