Divorce, teenage children, and the future: 3 important considerations

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2024 | Divorce

Divorce is a complex and emotional process for any family, but when teenage children are involved, the stakes are even higher. As parents negotiate the details of divorce, they must consider the unique needs of their teenagers and the long-term impacts of their decisions. Three considerations that are unique for parents of teens: discussing and planning for college expenses, addressing custody and living arrangements with sensitivity to the teen’s needs, and maintaining open lines of communication.

#1: Planning for college expenses

Teens are likely finishing up high school and looking towards the future. For many, this includes making plans for college. It is important for parents to discuss how they will shoulder the financial responsibility for college. It helps to approach this topic with a clear and level head. This conversation should touch on many aspects of college planning, including a discussion on how to handle potential scholarships, FAFSA paperwork, and even the potential impact on tax obligations.

Consider including the following in your divorce agreement:

  • Tuition. It is a good idea for parents to put together a detailed plan for tuition payments.
  • Room and board. Whether staying in college housing or not, this cost can be significant. Parents should account for this expense before finalizing the divorce.
  • The extras. Agreements on who will cover additional college-related expenses such as books, the cost to participate in extracurricular activities, travel, and transportation.

Discussing and solidifying these plans within the divorce agreement can help to reduce the risk of future conflicts and better ensure that your teenager’s educational future remains a priority.

#2: Custody and living arrangements

Teenagers require stability and support, especially during the changes that come with their parents’ divorce. When deciding on custody and living arrangements, parents should take the teen’s needs and preferences into account.

Key factors to address can include:

  • The teenager’s school and social life
  • The proximity of each parent to the teen’s school and friends
  • The teenager’s own preference, taking into account their maturity and ability to express their needs

Legal decisions made today will resonate throughout your teen’s formative years, so it is important to create a living situation that supports their emotional well-being and development.

#3: Maintaining communication

Open and honest communication is the cornerstone of helping teenagers navigate the changes in their family structure. Any parent of a teenager knows that this is a struggle even in the best of circumstances.

During a divorce, parents can help get over this hurdle by putting a little extra effort into time with their teens. This can include keeping discussions age-appropriate and respectful. It can also help to encourage your child to share their feelings and concerns while making it clear that you are there for them during this difficult transition. These steps can help to better ensure the conversations are fruitful, even when difficult.