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Preparing for an Empty Nest Divorce

Graduation season is upon us. I am preparing to launch my firstborn from high school into the next phase of his life. It is an exciting time.

It is also a time of significant shifts in family dynamics. For many partners in a marriage who are watching their only child, or their youngest child, leave “the nest,” it is not uncommon for this season of life to bring with it a period of contemplation and a yearning for something else. For some couples, this may mean reinvesting in their marriage.

Our friends at The Marriage Place ( have suggestions for people who want to avoid divorce and reengage in their marriage. However, the reality is that for many couples, an empty nest is the opportune time for closing a chapter and beginning a new chapter by ending a marriage.

An empty nest divorce, that is one that is undertaken after the children have left the nest seems simpler at first glance: you don’t have to worry about the parenting plan part of the divorce decree, you don’t have to negotiate possession schedules or child support, and you don’t have to fret about custody evaluations and third parties prying into the intimate details of your family life.

However, empty nest divorces can be very challenging. While we do not have legally mandated provisions that have to be included in the decree for adult children, there are still questions that have to be answered. Who will pay for college expenses? How will we cover medical expenses for our adult children? What about car expenses for adult children? Or continuing support for their daily living expenses? What if an adult child has special needs – will that be considered and accounted for?

There is also the fact that for many facing the empty nest, the retirement years are right around the corner, or may already have arrived! How will retirement assets be valued and divided? Is spousal maintenance an option?

Frequently at this stage of life, one or both spouses may have a significant asset involving ownership in a business. How will that asset be divided? If the business is co-owned, will that arrangement continue post-divorce? Will the business be sold, or will one party buy out the other?

With careful planning, we can help make the transition through the “empty nest divorce” simpler for everyone. If you, or someone you know, is contemplating a divorce after the children have left the nest, we would love to meet and help answer some of these questions based on your unique circumstances. Contact Hargrave Family Law and schedule a time to talk with a family law professional; we’re here to help.