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Don't underestimate the impact of divorce on your college kids

Over the next couple of months, college students throughout the country will be making their first visits home for the holidays since going off to school. Some will be facing a new family dynamic of separated or divorced parents.

Divorce among people in their 50s and older has increased significantly in recent decades and now accounts for a quarter of all marital splits. Many of these couples hold off ending their marriage until their kids have gone off to college, believing that it won't affect them as much as if they were still at home.

However, parental divorce can have a serious emotional impact on college students. It can affect their grades and social life. In some cases, it can have a financial impact on them. Their parents may no longer be able to afford their current school, or they may have to take a part-time job or seek financial aid.

In addition to working out a settlement that includes continuing to cover college tuition and other expenses as they have been, parents can help their college-age kids adjust emotionally. As with kids of any age, it's essential not to involve them in your drama or ask them to take sides.

Too often, since parents see their college students as young adults, they lean on them emotionally and depend on them to help with things their spouse used to take care of. Kids may feel the need to return home on weekends to help one or both parents, which robs them of an important part of the college experience.

Holidays can be a particularly conflicted time. Kids often have to decide which parent to stay with and how to divide their time. Some decide not to go home at all. Adult children aren't covered by parenting plans, so that decision is up to them. Parents can help by not inflicting guilt on their kids over how they spend their holidays.

If you're divorcing and have a child in or about to begin college, your family law attorney can help you work to try to ensure that his or her higher education won't be endangered by the financial changes in your life. Your attorney can probably also refer you to resources to help you talk with your child about the divorce in order to minimize the emotional effect on his or her life.

Source: Montana Kaimin, "When parents divorce, college students are set adrift," Kasey Bubnash, accessed Oct. 18, 2016

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