The Empty Nest Syndrome and Divorce


The Empty Nest Syndrome and Divorce

Most people marry because they want to have children. Raising children is one of the sweet joys of life. Even when there are difficulties in a marriage, it can be easy to work through those difficulties if there are children. There are lessons to teach children. Teachers to meet with. Games and events to take children to.

Many of the joys of having children end though when the kids go off to college or start their careers. It’s just not the same seeing your kids once or twice a week, if you’re lucky, instead of every day. When children leave home, called the empty nest, parents soon realize that their relationship depends largely on how each spouse gets along with the other spouse. For some parents, the frictions that were under the surface when the children were in the home become too hard to handle and can lead to empty nest syndrome and divorce.

By the time children leave, parents may begin to change in other ways too. They may be entrenched in their work lives. They may begin to have health issues. In many cases, the parents soon realize that their marriage isn’t stable.

Some causes of an empty nest divorce

According to Divorce Mag, the Empty Nest Syndrome is “defined as sadness or emotional distress that will affect parents whose children have grown up and left home.”  Marriages may lead to empty nest syndrome and divorce for several reasons:

  • The marriage was neglected. Many parents are so focused on their children’s lives that they forgot their own. Marriages do require romance. After all, that’s how your children were born in the first place. Marriages require paying attention to your spouse’s needs, wants, and goals. If these items aren’t part of a couple’s daily routine when the kids are young, it can be hard to address them when the children are gone. It can be hard to get to know your partner after 18 years of marital neglect and it can lead to empty nest syndrome and divorce.
  • Different perspectives on the empty nest. One parent may see the empty nest time as a chance to start new hobbies, to enjoy travel, and other things they may have put off. The other parent may just feel lonely because the children aren’t home.
  • Concern about the children. It’s natural to be concerned about your children’s education, career, and social life. Too much anxiety and worry can prevent a parent from focusing on his/her spouse and can lead to empty nest syndrome and divorce.

Methods for saving a marriage when the children move away with Empty Nest Syndrome and Divorce

Divorce Mag recommends that empty-nester parents:

  • Start dating again by engaging in activities like eating out, entertainment, and hobbies they both enjoy. Remember the things that brought you together before the children were born.


  • Discuss how each spouse feels about their lives with the children gone from the home. Empathy in a spouse is essential to transitioning to a new lifestyle.


  • Regularly schedule meals, phone conversations, and other times to talk about the empty nest


  • Keep in touch with your kids so you know they’re safe but understand being away from home is a welcome and healthy development in their lives.

Issues in an Empty Nest Syndrome Divorce

Some of the issues in an empty nest divorce are:

  • Child custody and child support. The good news is that custody and child support, by definition of the children no longer being minors, are not likely to be an issue in an empty nester divorce – with possible exceptions such as determining how much each parent will pay for a child’s college, trade-school, or health insurance.
  • Division of property. While you want your children to be welcome to stay home (on occasion), the reality is that it isn’t critical that a mother or father keep the marital home when there’s empty nest syndrome and divorce at the same time. When the kids have lives of their home, selling the marital home is often less stressful and makes more sense than trying to keep an expensive place to live.
  • While disputes about the home may be less likely, disputes about other items (such as bank accounts, business interests, and retirement benefits) will be more critical because the spouses have accumulated more assets.
  • Alimony. A spouse who needs financial support because she/he can’t earn a living comparable to the other spouse or has health needs will have the right to seek alimony.

At DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law, our divorce lawyers understand how empty nest syndrome and divorce are different than divorces when the children are young. We fight to protect your financial interests and to help you emotionally move on to the next phase of your life. To discuss your divorce concerns, at any phase of your marriage, call us at 908-691-2104 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Clinton and Morristown.

Erin D. DeGeorge
Erin D. DeGeorge joined DeTorres & DeGeorge, LLC as partner to the firm in June of 2010. Prior to joining DeTorres & DeGeorge, Erin was associated with the national firm of Fox Rothschild LLP and Cutler, Simeone, Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, LLC...
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