How Divorce Affects Grandparents’ Relationships with Grandchildren

When a married couple decides to get divorced, we often spend a significant amount of time thinking about how the divorce will affect minor children from the marriage. When we think about kids from a marriage, we typically focus on the children's psychological and physical well-being, which often relates directly to the kind of relationship the child has with each parent after the divorce and the amount of time that the child spends with each parent. We do not often consider the ways in which divorce can impact a child's relationship with his or her grandparents. There are many issues that can arise with regard to grandparents and divorce, but we want to focus primarily on the ways in which multiple grandparents-and step-grandparents-result from divorce and can change a family dynamic.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, divorce is resulting in a surge of grandparents, with kids often having half a dozen (or more) grandparents. How do these grandparent relationships affect a family dynamic after divorce?

Why Divorce is Resulting in More Grandparents

When divorce is not a factor in a relationship, children usually have four grandparents. However, as the article highlights, that number simply is not longer the norm and the reason is divorce. The article points out that we often hear about children with six, seven, or even eight grandparents, step-grandparents, and grandparent-equivalents. The rising number of grandparents in a child's life in unprecendented in our history, and in large part, that rising rate of grandparents is tied to divorce.

According to Deborah Carr, a sociology professor at Boston University, older adults today are experiencing higher rates of divorce than ever before. Moreover, the rates of gray divorce have also increased, which means that older adults are getting divorced-and remarried-in unprecedented numbers. A recent study published in the Journals of Gerontology reported that approximately 20% of grandparents over the age of 51 have at least one step-grandchild, while many of those people have more than one step-grandchild.

Yet grandparents getting divorced and remarried is not the only path to having step-grandparents. Many people become step-grandparents when their adult children marry people with children and themselves become stepparents.

Effects of More Grandparents After Divorce

In theory, it should be positive that divorce results in more grandparents since this means more love and support all around. But are more grandparents always good for kids and for the family structure more generally?

As some researchers have argued, step-relationships simply are often not as strong as biological relationships tend to be, which can be detrimental. Furthermore, grandparent conflicts can occur with the parents after a divorce, which can lead to immense hardship for children. At the same time, having grandchildren and step-grandparents in the picture can, in some cases, help begin rebuilding family connections after divorce.

A Michigan Divorce Attorney can Help

If you need assistance filing for divorce or have concerns about the implications of your family's changes, you should speak with a Michigan divorce attorney about your case. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins today.