Waiting to Divorce Until Child Is 18: Evaluating Your Options

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By Divorce & Finance

Waiting to divorce until child is tipsYou’re wondering if waiting to divorce until child is 18 is the best thing or divorce after child goes to college. You’ve tried, given your all, but you’re still unhappy, and your marriage is falling apart.

Every parent wishes to do what’s best for their kids, including staying in an unhappy marriage. While this is a noble route, it’s often easier said than done.

Let’s discuss further the potential implications of divorce on your children and whether it’s appropriate for you to divorce now or delay ending your marriage until your children are 18.

Is It Appropriate Waiting to Divorce Until Child Is 18?

There’s no ideal time to divorce and children are obviously impacted. However, staying in an unhappy marriage where your children are exposed to conflict is not a gift to anyone. Ultimately, how well your kids handle the end of your marriage comes down to how you deal with it.

Children’s Age Is a Factor in a Divorce

One of the biggest factors that may weigh into a couple’s decision about waiting to divorce until child is 18 is their children’s age. Is it worth staying in a loveless marriage for your child?

Secondly, their age affects how aware they are of the tension and unhappiness in your marriage. After all, the divorce process offers different challenges for children based on their age.

For instance, according to the UCL Center for Longitudinal Studies, if the child is between the ages of 7 and 14 when their parents divorce, the chance of the kids developing behavioral disorders rises by 16%. Here’s an overview of specific things to consider for different stages of development.

– Divorce With Baby (below 4 years)

The infancy period is when kids develop an attachment to their primary caregiver. It’s at this stage that babies need structure and schedules. Co-parenting a baby with an ex can be nerve-wracking.

Divorcing parents must put their differences aside and work as a team so their infant children develop a strong, healthy attachment to their primary caretaker while building a strong relationship with the other parent.

A positive of ending a marriage when a child is an infant is that babies don’t understand the issues of having separate parents and two households, so the divorce will always feel “normal” to the child. Suppose divorcing your spouse makes both of you happy; in that case, your kids will know two happy, separate families.

– Divorce With School-Aged Children (ages 5 – 10)

School-aged children understand and experience their parent’s separation and divorce. Because of this, they are likely to feel sad and mourn the absence of one parent. While they can adapt to the impacts of divorce (e.g., potentially changing schools, moving across two different households, etc.), the new lifestyle can be overwhelming.

It can make them feel their lives are not “normal” and are outside their control. Divorcing Parents can help their school-aged kids regain a sense of normalcy by allowing them to provide input in decisions that impact their lives.

– Divorce With Preteens (ages 9 – 12)

Preteens have unique social views and moral concerns that every parent must consider helping them cope with changes that come with a divorce. Their growing awareness of social interactions often leaves preteens feeling embarrassed and alienated from their peers by their parent’s divorce.

Preteens will often overreact by withdrawing or with anger. Sometimes, they may even refuse to go to parenting time with one parent, making it challenging to co-parent.

Divorcing parents must be vigilant about monitoring their preteen’s behavior to ensure they do not turn to risky conduct (e.g., eating disorders, substances, promiscuity, etc.) to cope. Preteens may need a peer group for other divorced children or therapy sessions to help them adjust.

– Divorce and Teenagers (ages 13 – 17)

A teenager’s life is stressful enough without factoring in their parents’ divorce. After all, they may be dealing with lots of pressure from school, extracurricular activities, college looming in the back of their minds, the issue of friends, etc. If your teen is like many others, their social life is complicated, and there’s lots of emotional drama.

Along with that comes social media and peer pressure to engage in risky conduct like unsafe sex, illicit drugs, etc. So, your adolescent children’s stresses are very real. They loom large, and your teenage children feel the greatest trauma when your divorce is part of it. Did you know that teenagers whose parents divorce are more likely to experience mental health issues?

As aforementioned, preteens often experience grief when they learn their parents are divorcing and become sad and clingy. On the other hand, teenagers often view their parents’ divorce as a betrayal and may pull away from their parents or, even worse, act out in destructive ways.

To ease the pain of your teenage children, try to keep things as amicable as possible, stick to your obligations, talk to them about the future, take care of yourself, and, more importantly, continue to be a parent.

What’s the Best Time To Initiate Your Divorce When Children Are Involved?

Does divorce impact children? Are children affected by seeing their parents in unhappy marriages? Yes, and yes again. Of course, they are!

While many existing studies show that divorce can impact children, they fail to take into consideration how children are affected by living with parents who are locked in loveless tumultuous marriages. Are your children stuck with you in a bad marriage and a home that’s volatile and where there may be constant arguing, controlling behaviors, resentments, or even abuse between their parents? It’s not a good habitat for a child.

So, when divorcing before your children turn 18 is not an option, and delaying the divorce is equally a bad idea, what do you do? Do you stay in a loveless and even abusive marriage for your kids? Or do you throw in the towel? This is a personal decision that every parent must make for themselves.

However, waiting to divorce until a child is 18 isn’t always the wrong option (but it’s not ideal for everyone), especially if your children are almost 18. By delaying the divorce, you can save yourself and your kids the headaches and emotional roller-coaster of a custody plan. Besides, your children are likely old enough to understand your decision and begin to adjust at that age.

What Are the Stages of Divorce for a Child?

Divorce or separation is as emotionally taxing to children as it is to their parents. Children go through various stages of grief when facing their parent’s separation. Yet, each child experiences these stages differently and may take longer on one stage than others.

– Denial Stage

The shock or denial stage precedes the others, and it generally involves the shift from a child’s normal way of life. As the family becomes more dysfunctional due to divorce or separation, a child experiences shock and denial. Parents can help their children move past this stage by reiterating their love for them even if other things change.

– Anger Stage

The stage that almost always follows is anger. Divorce is tough for children, and most react by projecting anger, especially toward one parent. However, parents should understand this is normal and continue loving and empathizing with their children for an easier transition.

– Depression Stage

As divorce progresses and the anger deepens, children are often overwhelmed with sadness, and most withdraw from family and friends. Since children often interpret divorce as the parents’ rejection of them, it is understandable that they will go through a stage of immense sadness and loneliness.

– Bargaining Stage

Soon, children begin to understand that divorce is their parents’ decision and that there is little they can do to change the situation. The dialogue and bargaining phase is often characterized by guilt, as most children think they may have contributed to the divorce. It’s also not uncommon for children to ask their parents to reconsider and try to get the family back together.

– Acceptance Stage

Children understand and accept the new family dynamic when reality finally sinks in. Usually, acceptance comes with healing – the best results come when children are permitted to express their emotions and feelings freely. By continuously reassuring them that you love them and will continue to be there for them, children can move through the stages of grief quicker, heal and accept the situation.

Talk to an Experienced Family Law Lawyer

Regardless of how and when the divorce happens, it comes with much stress. Finding the right family law attorney near you to discuss your options, obligations, and rights can help alleviate these stresses. Are you unsure what the right course of action is for your situation? An experienced attorney can provide invaluable and objective legal advice on whether now is the time to divorce or delay until your child is 18.


Divorce is tough on all parties involved, but it may affect your children more than you think. This article has shed light on a few thoughts one must consider when contemplating waiting to divorce until child is 18. Below are key takeaways that summarize the discussion:Waiting to divorce until child is all you need to know

  • Divorce poses different challenges for children based on their age. Divorce is not equally bad for all children and is especially tough on teenagers.
  • Waiting until your children are adults to finalize a divorce works for some families, but it’s not always an ideal choice for everyone – there’s never an appropriate time for a divorce!
  • Talking to a family law attorney can help parents choose the right course of action when children are involved.

The truth is that being able to choose whether or not to wait until your child is 18 before you divorce is a stressful situation. When kids are involved, there is never a ‘good’ time to end a marriage. Divorce is hard, regardless. What’s paramount is your happiness and your kids’, and most kids are happy when both their parents are happy.

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