News and Insights
6 March 2017
Supporting adult children after divorce
The “boomerang generation” is a term coined to describe the current generation of young adults (roughly aged 18-35) who still live at home with their parents and are not financially independent.
According to data from the Office for National Statistics, about a quarter of young adults aged 20 to 34 in the UK are living with their parents. This is the highest number since records began in 1996, with high house prices a factor as well as the high cost of living and financial insecurity in Europe generally.
The boomerang generation are returning home in record numbers, but what happens if mum and dad are divorced or are going through the divorce process? This raises a number of questions, such as:
- Where do they go when there is no “home” for them to go back to?
- Who is responsible for taking care of “the kids” when they are all grown up, but still need financial support from their parents?
- Are their parents still obligated to support them even after they have reached majority?
- What happens if the parents do not agree on what support (if any) is appropriate?
The legal position in Jersey
In a nutshell, there is no legal obligation to support an adult child in Jersey. Once a child has completed their education, the parent is not obliged to support that child. The only exception is where the child has a severe disability.
What if you, as a parent, feel a moral or ethical obligation to support your children to the best of your ability, no matter how old they are? Then what are your options?
1. If you and your ex-spouse agree
If you agree on how and how much to support your adult children, then there is no problem. Speak to your ex first and decide jointly what you can each afford, being honest in respect of what each of you is willing to do. When you have agreed this, inform your child/children so everyone has realistic expectations.
2. If you and your ex-spouse do not agree
The problem arises when you and your ex-spouse do not agree on whether (or to what extent) to support your adult children due to affordability, or other reasons. It is not uncommon for people to change their views on the level of support they want to afford their children when divorce proceedings change the playing field.
So how can you get your ex-spouse to help support your children when they have no legal obligation to do so?
i. Try to negotiate
Maybe there is something that your spouse wants in the divorce that you could trade in exchange for your spouse paying you a monthly sum so you can support your children. Or, maybe you could negotiate to receive a greater percentage of cash or other liquid assets so that you have a pool of money to draw from while you help your children out.
ii. Avoid litigation: consider alternative dispute resolution “ADR”
You will have more control over the way your divorce settlement is structured if you use mediation (whether through Family Mediation Jersey, or with an external mediator “lawyer led mediation”) or collaborative law to resolve your issues rather than litigation. Remember, your spouse has no legal obligation to support your adult children so you must bear this in mind when considering your position for court. A court will not be swayed by any arguments designed to provoke guilt from the other party so there is little point raising them.
Do not waste money arguing fruitlessly. Be proportionate and remind yourself that this could be spent on the family instead. This is good advice generally: if parties can reach a fair and cost effective settlement, there are more monies to meet their own needs and those of any adult children. Litigating is often counterproductive to the aim and legal fees are a debt to be paid like any other.
iii. Do not make matters personal
Regardless of the financial support either parent is prepared to contribute and the reasons behind this, children are entitled to have a relationship with both parents, if they wish. Try not to vent about the matrimonial finances to them, especially if matters have not yet been finalised. Bad mouthing the parent that is unwilling or unable to contribute is unlikely to convince them to change their stance, and soured relations could hamper any further negotiations and cause parties to become entrenched in their views. Ultimately this will lead to court, higher costs for both and possibly a result neither will be happy with.
iv. Be honest with the children and each other
If you want to help your children but cannot afford to do so, or can only do so in a limited way, be honest with them. Often it is fair to expect a contribution towards their living costs, or for them to work with you and your ex-spouse to utilise available grants.
A source of frustration in financial proceedings is when one spouse (or both), feel the other is being evasive as to their financial position or is being greedy. The sooner parents discuss what support they want to provide their adult children the better. This way it should focus negotiations to keep monies aside for the children. Once focus is lost, often the parties’ respective needs mean that monies cannot be set aside for the support of adult children (i.e. deposit for a house, education or generally).
Finally, remember that although it is natural to want to help your children financially, eventually they must take responsibility for themselves and find their own way, even if this is financially difficult for them.
If you would like specific advice on providing financial support for your adult children, please contact Viberts’ family team on 632267 for more information.