What divorcing parents with adopted children need to know

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2023 | Divorce |

People sometimes assume that when parents with an adopted child divorce it’s somehow different than when parents have biological children together. When parents have built their family using adoption, the only real difference is generally being especially cognizant of how the split will affect the child based on their history.

This is true whether the couple adopted the child together, one spouse adopted the other spouse’s child (perhaps if the other birth parent gave up their parental rights) or one parent in a female couple gave birth to the child and the other parent adopted them to gain equal parenting rights. 

Continuity and consistency

While divorcing parents should always be conscientious about minimizing anxiety and insecurity in their children as they split, that’s particularly true if your child remembers their life before adoption. If they came from a chaotic or abusive home or went through multiple foster homes, for example, the idea of their parents splitting up can be particularly frightening and bring up past trauma.

It’s crucial to assure your child that you’ll both continue to be their parents (assuming that you’ll be co-parenting). It’s also wise to develop a parenting plan that will provide consistency of rules and expectations across both of your homes and allow them to continue to have a close relationship with both parents.

If your child has maintained a relationship with their birth mother or other biological relatives, it’s typically best to allow that to continue as uninterrupted as possible. Having that continuity and added support can help your child.

Other people can be helpful – or hurtful

Just be sure that no one is telling your child anything that could make them doubt your continued commitment to them. This can particularly be a problem if you adopted your spouse’s child. Kids often think their relationship with their adoptive parent will end if the parents’ marriage ends. If one child is adopted and others aren’t, the adopted child can sometimes be made to feel “less than” by siblings. Don’t put it past adults to unintentionally ask ignorant and hurtful questions of your child.

Each situation is highly unique. Therapy for your child, and possibly for the family, may help if your child is showing signs of emotional distress or acting out. One way divorcing parents with an adopted child can make things easier for them is to do their best to negotiate their agreements on their own, with legal guidance, rather than battling out every issue in court.