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Stephen Beroes, Elizabeth A. Beroes, Julie Elizabeth Beroes, and Shanice Williams
Stephen Beroes, Elizabeth A. Beroes, Julie Elizabeth Beroes, Shanice Williams

Co-parenting teenagers following a “gray divorce”

On Behalf of | Jul 12, 2023 | Child Custody

The “gray divorce” trend is seeing a resurgence in the news lately, as statistics were recently released stating that the gray divorce rate is expected to increase threefold from its 1990 numbers by 2030.

A gray divorce is one involving spouses ages 50 and up. While many of these couples will be empty nesters, some of the couples will still have teenage children living at home. Thus, it is important for gray divorcees in Pennsylvania to understand child custody laws in the commonwealth and how to co-parent teenagers following a divorce.

Child custody in Pennsylvania

Child custody in Pennsylvania can be divided into two categories: legal custody and physical custody. These categories are defined in Pennsylvania Statutes §5322.

Legal custody in Pennsylvania refers to the right to make key decisions in child rearing. Legal custody can be shared or sole.

In a shared legal custody situation, both parents have the right to make key child-rearing decisions, including which doctors the child will see, what religions the child will participate in and where the child will go to school. In a sole legal custody situation, only one parent has the right to make these decisions.

Physical custody in Pennsylvania refers to who has the child in their care on a day-to-day basis. Physical custody can be shared, primary, partial, sole or supervised.

In a shared physical custody situation, each parent has the child in their care for a significant period of time. In a primary physical custody situation, one parent has the child in their care the majority of the time, and the other parent has the child in their care the rest of the time.

In a sole physical custody situation, one parent has the exclusive right to have the child in their care. In a supervised physical custody situation, the parent with visitation rights must be supervised by an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parents during that parent’s visitation time.

Co-parenting teenagers in a gray divorce

Given the many ways parents can share custody in Pennsylvania, there is a good chance that both parents in Pennsylvania will be involved in their child’s life to a certain extent post-divorce. Thus, parents going through a gray divorce who are raising teenagers will have to develop healthy ways to co-parent together.

Co-parenting teenagers can be different from co-parenting younger children. Teenagers do not have the same needs as younger children. Moreover, teenagers will process their parents’ divorce differently from younger children.

Teenagers may have more questions about family dynamics post-divorce. They will want to know how the rules will differ in each parents’ household. Parents who plan on having different household rules should be prepared to explain these rules together, so the child understands what is expected of them in each household and why.

Teenagers might also find they feel more loyalty toward one parent than the other following a gray divorce. Just like any other child, teenagers might experience many feelings when their parents divorce. When parents can cooperate in raising their child post-divorce, they can support their teenager emotionally as the child processes the divorce.

Healthy co-parenting can also involve maintaining family traditions. This can help provide teenagers with a sense of stability and show they are still part of a family unit. Some parents can celebrate holidays together or take vacations together even though they are divorced. Even if they cannot, respecting these traditions can help teenagers feel comfortable post-divorce.

Co-parenting teenagers following a gray divorce might not always be easy, but if parents can cooperate and communicate in a positive manner following their divorce, they can help their teenager move forward in a healthy way following the split.