Should You Wait Until the Kids Go to College to Get Divorced?

Fewer things are sadder than the death of a dream. Even if your marriage has been rocky for some time, somewhere in the back of your mind, you likely still hold a fantasy of having a “whole” and happy family. When the day arrives that you realize there is no way to keep your marital union together, you must make a painful decision. Should you divorce right away or to wait until the kids leave for college? Honestly, there is no clear-cut answer. Here are some points and counterpoints to consider.

Psychology Today advises parents not to wait until the children have left to begin exploring the divorce option:

  • College kids are not immune to a profound sense of loss when their parents divorce. Like younger children, they experience the loss of traditions their family had when it was whole.
  • There is never a perfect time to divorce. It will always be a challenge to adjust to a life by yourself and to break the bonds of a long relationship, even one that’s been through extreme stress.
  • No one in a household benefits from living in an unhappy home.
  • All kids should live in a home where at least one parent is in a good place emotionally.
  • You are your children’s role model. Do you want to teach them that it’s okay to be miserable, even when they can take action to make an uncomfortable situation more bearable?

However, some critics argue that deferring a break up may make sense, depending on your and your family’s financial, logistical and emotional circumstances. For instance:

  • Barring addictions and physical or emotional abuse, parents might want to stay together “for the sake of the children,” if your children are experiencing extreme, temporary stress in other arenas of their lives. For instance, if your teenage daughter just returned from rehab or your 8th grade son has been struggling mightily to contend with bullies at school, you might want to defer creating additional chaos and uncertainty in their lives until things have settled down.
  • What if you’re already stressed and overworked? You believe that, if you get divorced, the other parent will disappear and/or consciously avoid taking on any child care responsibilities. You may temporarily want to stay together to triage your parenting needs before ending the relationship.
  • Perhaps your whole family needs time to adjust and reassess. Rather than advocate for an immediate separation, in other words, maybe you just need to seek counseling and work on the marriage.

The Bottom Line

How to handle divorce gracefully can be a polarizing topic. The truth is hard to discern, because there just isn’t a lot of incontrovertible scientific evidence about how divorce impacts children and how to manage sensitive issues like timing the separation.

The very fact that you’re asking yourself whether you should wait indicates the love you feel for your children. For fearless advocacy during your separation, please call our experienced Maryland family law firm to schedule a private and confidential consultation at 301.970.9286.

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