While a late-in-life divorce may have no legal impact on the couple's children, the emotional impact is significant and even debilitating, in some cases.
Since older children have long-established family memories and traditions, letting go of them is often difficult. And adults, especially adult females, take more time to recover from emotional trauma than children. These negative emotions are complicated by the fact that graduations, weddings, and other celebratory occasions may be overshadowed by the logistical concerns of ensuring that Mom does not come into contact with Dad.
There are other specific negative consequences. Older adults sometimes share details about the breakup of the marriage with their children, placing the children in the uncomfortable position of parenting their parents. Also, due to the sometimes enormous financial expense of divorce, promised payments for first homes, education, and other items may go unfulfilled.
Grey Divorce and Grandparents' Rights
These feelings often give rise to anger, often at the parent who is rightly or wrongly faulted for the divorce. One way for the children to express that anger is by impairing the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Sometimes this action is blatant – “You cannot see Johnny any more” – but more often it is somewhat more subtle – “Susie cannot come over this weekend because she has a Girl Scout event.”
Grandparents have options in these situations, even though the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act contains a “parental presumption” that gives great deference to biological parents in child-rearing decisions.
To obtain written and enforceable visitation rights, the grandparents must show that the parents unreasonably denied contact. In these cases, the judge will examine:
- Grandparent/Grandchild Relationship: If the bond was fairly strong, and especially if the grandparents had custody of the grandchildren for at least six months, this factor normally weighs in favor of visitation rights.
- Child's Preference: There is no age cutoff in this particular section, but as a rule of thumb, judges give considerable deference to opinions from children who are at least 12.
- Good Faith Petition: Parents are not the only ones who may impede visitation out of anger.
Additionally, at least one biological parent must not object to grandparent visitation. If the petition is granted, most judges will approve an arrangement along the lines of one weekend per month.
Grandparents often have legally-cognizable visitation rights with regard to their grandchildren. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Naperville family law attorney, contact our office. After hours and off-site appointments are available.