When a child reaches 18 they are legally adults, but most are not self-supporting adults. They may be in college, or may have just finished college, and they are not able to be on their own without a little help from Mom and Dad. But how do you handle these situations if Mom and Dad are getting a divorce?
The collaborative divorce process provides the opportunity for the parents to be assisted by a mental health professional who serves as a communications coach, as well as a financial professional, about these and other issues when there are adult children involved.
Through this process, they can learn ways to co-parent adult children post-divorce. The adult children are technically grown, but the parents can still learn how to take care of them as they transition to the next stages of life.
In the collaborative process, the needs that the adult children might have for financial support can be considered in the overall property division. This is important because the courts generally do not consider adult children in a divorce settlement.
Generally speaking, once a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, the court loses jurisdiction to make rulings regarding support, obviously visitation and access, as well as custody issues. (This is true as long as the child is not an adult child who is disabled. There are statutory provisions to address the needs of children who are disabled into adulthood.)
Children who are freshmen and sophomores in college are still seen as kids of the family as much as the high schoolers are. However, the court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to order either parent to pay for college, or to pay for support while they finish college, or cover any of those needs.
In the collaborative process, addressing the needs of those grown children starts with making sure the parents are on the same page as to what their goals are for those children. For example, there may be a 25-year-old child, who is about to age out of health insurance eligibility on dad’s health insurance, but is in drug rehab.
Fortunately, the parents both agree that they want to take care of the child. Through the collaborative process, the divorcing couple can figure out, “How are we going to use community assets to help take care of those needs?”
Whereas, in a traditional divorce, it would be simply dividing up assets without considering the needs of those adult children. It frequently comes down to hoping that the parents can get on the same page down the road. In a collaborative case, you sit down at the table and specifically address those issues.
It is a good conversation to make sure both parents are on the same page asking questions like:
- How much is the child expected to contribute to their own expenses?
- What are the caps placed on how much each parent is contributing?
- Are both going to contribute?
- Or, is one parent going to cover most of the expense, because of an income differential?
This is a conversation that needs to be had and not just left up to chance. These adult children are able to finish maturing and becoming the fully-developed, self-supporting adults that both parents envisioned when they first brought them home from the hospital.