Protect Your Children’s Rights During and After Your Divorce

The divorce of one’s parents is difficult and emotionally distressing for children of all ages. A subsequent remarriage of either parent creates an additional adjustment.  A father’s remarriage to a younger woman may be particularly stressful for his children. What are the issues that make this new union most troublesome to youngsters?

Intact families provide children with physical, emotional and financial safety and security. Dr. Constance Ahrons, who conducted a 20-year study of children of divorce, found that parental divorce, subsequent dating and remarriage had a profound impact on their youngsters and may have temporarily destabilize their children’s emotional state. This researcher also found that older children who witnessed their parents’ discord were more receptive to their parting than to their father’s subsequent dating.

Dr. Ahrons also found that few teens were able or willing to accept the new partner as a parent figure. The more insistent the stepparent was about being seen as an additional parent, the more resistant the children were in accepting his/her authority. One third of the children reported that their parents’ remarriages were more stressful than their divorces. It may have been influenced by the youngsters’ change of school, loss of friends or being geographically more distanced from the non-custodial parent.

The above findings are psychologically understandable. What is perplexing is why adult children are more averse to their father’s remarriage, particularly to a younger woman, than they are to their mother’s pairing? It may be due to the adult children’s stronger protectiveness of their mother’s psychological and monetary wellbeing. Economically, men have commonly been the higher earners than their wives. A 2011 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that “Women of all ages earned 82.2% of what their male counterparts did, in every occupation except bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks.”

The discomfort about parental remarriage lasts beyond the immediate confusion and inconvenience children encounter. Adult children who are married and have their own families may have additional monetary and proprietary concerns regarding their own future. They often view their original family’s possessions, heirlooms and funds as part of their emotional and monetary inheritance to be passed down to their children and to generations to come. To have these financial and historical treasures eventually be left to their father’s second wife may feel like an ongoing assault to their family’s bond, history and connection.

Since parents are entitled to restructure their relationships and lives as they please, they need to secure their happiness as well as safeguard their children’s emotional and financial interests during their lives and beyond?


  • Tell your children of your decision to part while reassuring them that your love for them is solid.
  • Do not insist that your new partner be viewed as their additional parent. Help your new mate earn his/her title from the children.
  • Reassure your adult children that family treasures and assets will be willed to them. They need to know you care now and forever.



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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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