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What to Expect When Divorcing as Parents of Adult Children

Gray divorces — splits between couples who are 40 or older — are becoming increasingly common. These divorcees may have known for a while that they want different things from their partners, and they now realize that they still have decades to find a new partner and pursue the life they want. If you’re considering a divorce later in life, you should be prepared for some unique considerations, particularly if you’re the parent of adult children.

If you’ve already raised your kids to adulthood, your divorce may be more complicated than you expect. Keep reading to learn why adult children can affect your divorce and how to make sure your split goes smoothly anyway.

Why It Matters If You Have Adult Kids During Your Divorce

In some ways, waiting until your kids are grown can make your divorce less complicated. Once your kids turn 18, you no longer need to decide about child custody in your split. They are legal adults, so they can choose where they want to live and who they want to spend time with. That removes one of the most contentious issues in many divorces.

However, your kids can impact your split even once they reach adulthood. Most parents continue to support their kids in some way long after they’re technically independent. If you want to do anything like help pay for their college education or leave them property in your will, you’ll need to navigate those issues during your split.

Adult children can also complicate your divorce if you and your spouse disagree about how you want to continue supporting them. You’ll need to negotiate with your spouse about managing your marital estate and what you want to ensure your children receive in the future.

Issues Facing Parents of Adult Children During Divorce

So, how are you supposed to handle these issues? It depends on your specific situation. Here are three of the most complicated problems facing gray divorcees with adult offspring and how you can approach them to minimize problems in your split.

Child Support

A narrow collection of parents may still need to consider child support even after their children are technically adults. Child support payments often don’t automatically end when your kid turns 18. You may still need to navigate child support in your split if:

  • Your child is younger than 20, lives at home, and is still in high school full time
  • Your child is considered a “needy incapacitated child,” such as if they have a severe disability that prevents them from supporting themselves
  • You and your spouse made an agreement to continue supporting the child into adulthood

If your child fits one of these categories, you may be obligated to continue providing support even after they turn 18. You and your partner will need to work with your child to determine who they want to live with, and that decision will guide how support is awarded.

However, these payments will go to your kid, not your spouse, and both of you will be obligated to provide support according to your means. That means that adult child support is often less contentious than that of minors.

College Funds

Many parents want to help their kids get a college education. If you’ve invested in a college fund for your children, it can become a serious point of disagreement when you divorce. Unless you’ve set up the fund as a trust and named your children as beneficiaries, those funds are still technically your marital property and eligible for property division.

You’ll need to carefully decide how to handle these college funds to ensure they remain available for your children. You have several options for dividing them in your divorce:

  • Dividing the fund equally with your spouse and trusting that they will give your children the money they need for school when they need it.
  • Ceding other assets to your spouse in exchange for complete control over the funds, so you can guarantee that your kids receive the funds when they need them.
  • Mutually agreeing to place the funds in a trust before or during your divorce to remove them from consideration entirely.

Each of these options has unique benefits and drawbacks. The best way to determine the right solution for your situation is to talk with a qualified divorce attorney.

Wills and Estates

If your children are truly independent, then the only thing you have to worry about is protecting their inheritance. Many families have homes, businesses, or heirlooms that they pass down through the generations. If you have specific assets you want to guarantee your children receive, you’ll need to address them in your divorce.

If you haven’t filed for divorce yet, you may consider putting the assets you want your children to inherit in a trust. This removes them from your marital estate, just like for college funds. You can work with your spouse to set up a trust that guarantees your children will receive the assets you want to pass on no matter what happens to your marriage.

If you have already filed for divorce, you’ll need to fight for these assets during the property division process. You can work with a mediator to help you negotiate with your spouse to keep the assets you want to leave to your kids.

Finally, after your split, make sure you update all of your estate planning documents accordingly. Make sure that the new documents don’t reference any assets you no longer own, and remove your former spouse from your beneficiaries so your children will receive their inheritance.

Protect Your Adult Children During Your Divorce

While divorce isn’t as hard on adult offspring as it is on minors, it can still be an emotional strain. You can minimize the effect your divorce has on your kids and vice versa by being proactive about things like child support, college funds, and inheritances.

The best way to get started is by contacting the expert divorce attorneys at Regele Law, LLC. You can call our Salem office at 503-744-6025 or email us to schedule your consultation. Reach out today to discuss your situation and learn how to simplify your divorce if you have adult children.