Divorce Effects Adult Children Too
Written by Jennifer Moshier

Effects of Divorce on Adult Children

There is a wealth of knowledge available regarding the effects of divorce and young children; however, less information is available on the effects a parental divorce can have on adult children. More people over the age of 55 are getting divorced and consideration of the legal, psychological and emotional impact on the adult children of the parents getting divorced needs to be addressed.

Emotional and Psychological Effects of Divorce on Adult Children

Until recently many people assumed adult children were minimally affected by their parents’ divorce, since they had coping mechanisms already in place. In reality, the psychological and emotional effects of divorce are similar for adults as they are for children.

Adult Children May Believe the Divorce Was Their Fault

Young children often think their parents’ divorce was their fault and that they could have done something to prevent it from happening Research suggests that adult children may have similar feelings and the impact may be greater because their age allows them to empathize with the situation in a way that small children are not capable of doing.

Adult Children May Start Questioning Their Own Relationships

During and following a divorce, young children often act out as a way of receiving attention. However, adult children can react in different ways. It is not uncommon for adult children of divorce to distance themselves from their own partners. They may also experience a drop in performance at school or work, often as a result of distraction, but this may be a more sophisticated cry for attention. While younger children may have negative thoughts about their immediate relationships following a divorce, adults look at the issue in a multi-dimensional way. Consider the words of Caitlyn Doenges in this article: “It made me question what may happen in my own marriage once our kids are grown. Would I follow in the same footsteps? Did I have a choice in whether this became a pattern?” Ms. Doenges suggests that adult child may feel like they have to side with one parent and they struggle with the feeling they are being pulled by both parents. It stands to reason that divorcing parents are just as responsible to insulate their adult children from these feelings as they would be if their children were young.

Financial Effects of Divorce on Adult Children

Divorce can be expensive at any age. When a couple decides to divorce later in life, the investments and other financial decisions made during the marriage will often have to be revisited. Decisions about whether or when to retire or what their spending habits will look like may be quite different when the assets and income are now having to cover two households.

As a result, some families are forced to deplete their investments and other savings, both on the divorce process and on their post-divorce living expenses. In some cases, this means that the funds that were originally intended to be left as an inheritance to their children will no longer be available for that purpose.  In other cases, this means that parents who are assisting their adult children with college or other expenses will no longer have a surplus available to continue doing so.

Fortunately, the divorce process does not have to be so expensive or so unpredictable as to leave parents without the means to provide for their adult children, if it is a priority for them to do so.


  1. McGrath, Victoria. “Rights for Fathers Paying Child Support.” LegalZoom Legal Info, 18 July 2016, info.legalzoom.com/rights-fathers-paying-child-support-24388.html.
  2. “My Parents Got Divorced When I Was 35 – and It Was Still Really Painful.” MSN Lifestyle, www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/voices/my-parents-got-divorced-when-i-was-35-and-it-was-still-really-painful/ar-AABc2Ee?li=BBnb7Kz.

Collaborative Divorce Is Easier On Adult Children

Divorce litigation can be emotionally draining for you, your spouse, and your children. But it doesn’t have to be that way with collaborative divorce. The collaborative process can result in a less expensive, more efficient, and less harmful outcome for everyone involved. The legalfinancial, and communication professionals with Best Legal Choices can help you navigate this difficult time in your life.


The collaborative divorce process is designed to help people who are willing to work together to make an agreement that benefits the family. Resources that help parents communicate effectively during this process can help them model appropriate behavior for their kids. With a lot of love and support, children can more effectively deal with their parents’ divorce. Contact a professional with Best Legal Choices if you’re ready to take the first step toward starting your new life.