Adult Children of Gray Divorce by Cheryl Stein

There is a large demographic getting a lot of air time right now – those over 50 who are choosing to get divorced. Oftentimes, these couples have been married for many years, and now their youngest is about to go to college or move out of the house. Many of the couples in these “gray divorces” have successful and flourishing adult children, who escaped being in the midst of a contentious divorce or custody battle while they were growing up, only to find themselves in the middle of their parent’s divorce now.

Often the adult children are very involved in the divorce and will help their parents find counsel. Sometimes, the children will pay the attorney’s fees. On the surface, the children may have a camaraderie with both of their parents, but underneath they are often more aligned with one parent over the other and feel justice should be brought because of their observations over the years.

If English is a second language, children often serve as interpreters and assist their parents with the more technical tasks and documents, such as filling out the statement of net worth. They often ask to correspond with the attorney, and it is essential that appropriate authorizations and waivers are in place to enable such communications.

In some situations, adult children have one parent move in with them until the divorce settles. This can create tension and complications if the adult child is married, and his/her spouse is not on board and feels the adult child’s support of his/her divorcing parent is usurping too much time from their marriage and family.

Some adult children go as far as to play Scooby Doo – investigating if they feel one parent is hiding something. In other situations, highly educated and employed adult children may still live with their divorcing parents and are helping pay the household expenses. These children’s own finances are somewhat intertwined with their parent’s, and they have a vested interest in the outcome.

Much like elder care planning, in which children are heavily involved, these children feel that helping their parents, especially the more vulnerable, dependent parent, is imperative to their parent’s future planning and sustainability. The adult child also recognizes that he/she will have to take care of a parent and plug in the gaps where that parent’s needs are not met in a divorce.   

These adult children walk a tightrope and try to be careful not to do anything to imperil their relationship with either parent outright. Despite their maturity, success, and adulthood, they are often emotionally affected. They have to deal with the fact that the family unit they grew up with is disintegrating. These adult children often act as a friend and emotional support system to their parents, which is why we advise them to protect themselves and to avoid jeopardizing their own accomplishments and/or marriage in the process of supporting their parents.

If you’re contemplating divorce or are the adult child of a gray divorce, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Cheryl Stein, Esq.
The Law and Mediation Offices of Cheryl Stein
Offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn
Phone: (646) 884-2324