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Timing Your Divorce When Your Child Graduates from High School

Many parents try to time their divorce around their children's milestones – particularly high school graduation. This strategy makes sense for many reasons, but it's not always the right choice. In this blog post, I’ll share some considerations about the timing of divorce when your child is graduating from high school.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of timing your divorce when your child is graduating from high school.

Pros and Cons of After Graduation

Pros of Divorcing After Your Child Graduates

The Timing Can Be Perfect:

Waiting until your child graduates from high school is an excellent choice in some situations.

  • Your child will be older and better able to understand and cope with the situation.

  • It can be easier for them to adjust to the new living arrangements.

  • You’ll have more flexibility to schedule court appearances and appointments around school events.

  • You can avoid disrupting their education.

Graduating from high school can be a stressful time for your child, and going through a divorce at the same time can be overwhelming. Waiting until your child graduates can allow them to focus on their education without any added stress. Additionally, your child may already have plans to attend college or enter the workforce, and waiting until after their graduation can give them some stability during this transition period.

Cons of Divorcing After Your Child Graduates

It May Not Be Best for Everyone:

While waiting until high school graduation might work well for some, it's not ideal in all cases.

  • If there is a substantial amount of tension in the household, it may be better to divorce when the child is younger.

Waiting until your child graduates may mean staying in an unhappy marriage for longer than necessaryIn some cases.

  • It could give them more time to adapt to their new routine before leaving for college.

  • Staying together for your child’s sake can also cause tension and conflict between you and your spouse, which can affect your child’s emotional well-being.

  • Waiting until your child graduates may also mean a longer wait for financial independence, which can make the divorce process more difficult.

Pros and Cons of Before Graduation

Pros of Divorcing Before Your Child Graduates

Divorcing before your child graduates has its own advantages. For one, you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse can plan their graduation together, which can provide some sense of closure and minimize any animosity between you both.

  • Divorcing before your child graduates can allow them to process your separation and their future without the added pressure of graduation.

  • If the parents are unhappy and arguing, a child may feel relieved if their parents separate.

Cons of Divorcing Before Your Child Graduates

Divorcing before your child graduates can also be challenging.

  • Your child may be in a sensitive state, and they may blame themselves for your separation.

  • Their education may be impacted by your divorce, which can be especially difficult if their graduation is coming up.

Discussing It with Your Child May Be Essential:

As with any decision, it is helpful to take your child's feelings and well-being into account. Before making a plan, you may decide if you child is ready to have an open and honest conversation about divorce timing. Choosing a graduation year might make them feel unnecessary pressure. Listen to their concerns, and if possible, take their requests into account.

Be Prepared for the Transition:

Even if you believe the timing of your divorce is best, the transition to a new family routine might be challenging. Graduation is an opportunity to look forward to new beginnings for both you and your child; you may need to seek guidance from a coach to help make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone.

It May Affect Your Future Plans:

It’s essential to consider the long-term impact of your decision. Suppose you decide to wait until your child graduates from high school to divorce and later meet someone new. If you remarry, your child's dependency may impact spousal support, among other legal concerns. Take these circumstances into consideration, and speak with professionals to learn your options.

College Financial Aid and Divorce

Divorce can have an impact on the family’s college financial aid eligibility and can be quite complicated. If both parents are obligated to contribute to their children’s college education, then they may be considered separately for purposes of calculating financial aid. This means that the income and assets of both parents will be taken into account when applying for student aid, even though they are not living together.

Ex-spouses should make sure to report all relevant information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This includes both parents’ income and assets as well as any child support or alimony payments received by a parent.

College Scholarships and Divorce

It is also important to note that divorce can have an impact on any merit-based scholarships that a student might receive. Merit-based scholarships are typically awarded based on a student’s academic performance or other criteria, so the divorce may not have much of an effect. However, if the student is also applying for need-based aid, then their family’s financial situation may be taken into account more closely due to the changes in their household income.

Timing your divorce with high school graduation has both advantages and disadvantages. Divorcing when your child is graduating from high school comes with its own set of challenges and benefits. The decision on when to divorce when your child is graduating from high school soon depends on your unique family situation, your child’s emotional state, and other factors such as finances and living arrangements. As a professional divorce coach, I always recommend seeking support from a divorce coach. We can help guide you through this challenging time and help you make the best decision for your family.


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