How Are The Children of Gray Divorce Navigating Their Parents’ Life Change?
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA-The gray divorce phenomenon means serious implications and challenges will face generations X, Y and the Millenials.
Who will be there for aging parents now that they do not have each other to depend on for financial support? What happens to the family home? How much of the financial and emotional burden will fall on them?
As attorneys at law, Griffith, Young & Lass have noticed that many couples are not “growing old together.” Society’s expectations of marriage have shifted, and divorce is seen as the solution to providing individual happiness among baby boomer couples who are not happy in their marriage.
Simply defined, gray divorce is divorce among people who are 50 years old or older. And gray divorce is growing at an exponential rate, according to a recent article by Reuters contributor Chris Taylor. Consequently, this trend in divorce creates unique challenges for immediate family members.
Taylor notes that one out of three American baby boomers is unmarried. And 60 percent of those unmarried boomers are divorced. Even using conservative measures, the number of age 50-plus divorcees is expected to increase by a third over the next 20 years.
Most of the children of gray divorce are adults and are concerned about how caregiving will come into play as their parents begin to age. The cost of caring for the married elderly is already significant and adult children fear the added expense of caring for separated parents, according Taylor’s article.
According to the MetLife Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs, annual care costs for the elderly range anywhere from $21,840 to $87,235 depending on the type of care chosen. Older married couples can take advantage of economies of scale, as they can share housing and aid costs. However, divorced couples most likely live alone and have no one to share these costs.
In addition to the potential financial burden, adult children are faced with psychological burdens. In most cases, they have families of their own. A consequence of gray divorce means they have to learn how to balance the time needed to visit and care for both parents equally.
Another layer of stress may be added if siblings take sides and do not wish to maintain a relationship with one of the parents.
“In most cases, it is best not to take sides,” says Griffith, a divorce lawyer in San Diego. “Keep in mind that you don’t know what has happened behind closed doors. If you want to maintain a relationship with both parents, then be there for both parents equally, but refrain from advocating for one parent’s position over the other.”
There is also the chance that new stepparents are brought into the family dynamic if divorced couples choose to remarry.
With years of experience helping families through their divorce via mediation, Griffith, a divorce lawyer who also sees clients from Del Mar and other nearby areas, offers the following advice for older couples as they initiate the divorce process:
“Keep your family out of it. Keep emotions out of it. Hire a good mediator and try to finish the divorce as quickly and amicably as possible.”