Children of May-December - Spousal Age Gap and Custody

Posted by Joseph Lento | Sep 22, 2023 | 0 Comments

When it comes to how age affects custody agreements, most people assume that it's the age of the children that's at play. In some cases, however, the age of the soon-to-be-divorced spouses matters most. That's particularly relevant if there's a significant age gap between the parties. Why is parents' (or step-parents') age so crucial to the question of custody? What can you do if you're in the middle of a split from a much younger or older partner, and the age issue is affecting your custody battle? Let's take a closer look.

First, A Few Quick Statistics

In the United States and other Western countries, some 8% of heterosexual unions have a 10-plus year age gap. For gay and lesbian relationships, the figures are much higher, 15% for two partnered women and 25% for male-male couples. The average age difference in straight couples is a relatively short 2.3 years; in 64% of those, men are the eldest.

Oft-cited research shows that divorce rates increase, often dramatically, as the age gap between partners gets bigger. A five-year difference increases the chance of divorce by 18%, while people whose ages are ten years apart or more have a 39% likelihood of splitting. There are several factors behind these figures, including stigma, which is especially influential in marriages between a young woman and a much older man.

Problems Raising Children in Age-Gap Relationships

Parenting is unquestionably difficult for parents of any age, but perhaps more so for those who have kids when they themselves are older. Parents who are in their 40s, 50s, and beyond when their first child is born often find themselves having trouble keeping up physically as the child grows. It's much harder to deal with the sleepless nights that go hand-in-hand with newborns, to chase down a runaway toddler, or to engage in sports or other active pursuits with children of any age.

An older spouse may already have children of their own and be less inclined to pursue parenthood in their new relationship. Sometimes, too, there are financial concerns. If one or more of the would-be parents are paying alimony and/or child support in a previous relationship, the economic burden of additional families can be prohibitive.

Parenting styles and approaches to discipline can also vary depending on the parent's age. If there's a 15-year (or greater) gap, generational attitudes can play into parental philosophy, too.

Age Can Impact Custody Decisions—Fairly or Unfairly

These obstacles to parenting become even more consequential when the relationship fails, and the parents negotiate questions of custody. A judge may be reluctant to award an older parent the same physical custodial rights that a younger parent would receive.

The difference in age between the divorcees may have a legitimately significant impact on who will receive custody, but it may also be a prejudicial factor—in other words, judges can jump to conclusions about a parent's interest in or ability to be an active caretaker.

If you are in the process of splitting from a spouse who is significantly older or younger than you, and you feel that this difference (or just your age itself) has led to an unfair custody arrangement, the LLF Law Firm can help.

Call us at 888.535.3686 or click here to use our online contact form.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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