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The Divorce Encyclopedia

Term Definition Grandparents - they too face challenges in divorce.
Application in Divorce The parents of both spouses suffer pain and grief when the marriage of an adult child goes on the rocks, and very often grandparents find themselves unexpectedly thrust into challenging positions when divorce unhinges the a family. At worst, a bitter divorce very often drags in grandparents and other relatives who become combatants in the battle of spouses.

The return of an adult child to the empty nest can test the patience of everyone involved. What starts out as a temporary arrangement ("a place to stay until I get my own place") very often turns into a long-term arrangement. Even when parents and adult children are on good terms, the return of adult to his or her parent’s home can become claustrophobic. For the adult children who once had a home of his or her own relearning and living the "house rules" can be very demanding. Very often children get along much better with the parents at a distance, and adult children who return to a nest they thought they had left forever can find old issues resurfacing. The situation percolates and soon recriminations bubble to the top.

Moreover, grandparents, who imagined themselves on the cusp of the golden years of retirement, have found themselves pressed into duty as surrogate parents when, for example, an adult daughter finds herself unexpectedly returning to the workforce in the aftermath of a divorce and now in need of a baby-sitter. Many grandmothers have found themselves in the role of second mother’s to their grown children’s children. While this routine may brings joys, it also can disrupt the routines of older parents who imagined their days of child care behind them.

In intact families, grandparents get the best of two worlds: the joys of the children without the responsibilities for their upbringing. In families fractured by divorce, grandchildren can become weapons in proxy battled against alienated spouses. When a marriages crashes on the rocks, the once-favored daughter-in-law or son-in-law may drift away, or worse, become an enemy if the family takes sides.

The return of the adult child who needs a place to live and grandparents as surrogate parents can force postponement of long-term plans, for example, the sale of the house or travel. At times, postdivorce financial hardship means that mother and dad find themselves with unexpected financial burdens.

By the same token, the relocation of a custodial parent very often means one set of grandparents no longer have easy access to their grandchildren. And sometimes these relocations escalate to battles where grandparents fight for visitation rights with their own grandchildren. These battles poison the well from which a family, intact or broken, must drink.

See also Visitation, Grandparents’.

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