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By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT
In previous articles we have addressed consideration of parenting plans for young children and teenagers. What about young adult children? The law in California imposes a responsibility on divorced parents to provide for their minor children (generally under the age of 18) and disabled adult children. But many parents continue to feel responsible for their children during the young adult’s transition to independent living. We should note there is a philosophical divergence between those that believe “adult” children need to be on their own and those that believe the “launching” period occurs at an older age. While we take no position on this question, we are often called upon to address the issue of extended support.
During the divorce process, couples are negotiating the structure of their pending separate lives. Although under varying degrees of emotional, psychological and physical stress, they are compelled to make decisions that will have a lasting impact on their lives. In some ways, these decisions can reduce and relieve the various stressors by having more certainty about the future. This, then, can be an opportunity to settle concerns about matters addressed in the law AND ones that are not mandated by law.
Among the issues that concern adult children are educational needs and continued provisions of financial support for transportation, medical insurance, food, and shelter, etc. Parents can agree on what needs of the children they will support, how they will provide that support, and how they can resolve future issues over the adult children. These extended parenting plans are a reflection of the parents’ values and can be documented along with the many other issues that are required to be settled.
Even when parents don’t wish to legally obligate themselves beyond the law’s requirements, they can decide to make non-binding agreements that act as expressions of intent. By adding such language in a Marital Settlement Agreement, parents can reflect on their original goals and ease the way in overcoming later indecisions.
This article addresses some considerations for extended parenting of young adult children. In a future article, we will address some of the emotional and developmental aspects of adult children impacted by the divorce of their parents. After all, you can’t divorce your children.