Cuckoo Couples’ Increasing Step-Parent Divorce 

Published on 15 March, 2017 | Back to News/Press

Sam Hall - Hall Brown Family Law

A decision by more young adults to return to their family home because of the prohibitive costs associated with buying their own property has prompted a rise in divorce among Britain’s step-parents.

One of the country’s leading law firms has reported a five-fold increase in the number of second marriages ending in the last three years because of the tensions generated by having adult children living under the same roof.

Hall Brown Family Law claimed that the pressures appeared to be greatest where sons and daughters moved back in with their own partners.

Partner Sam Hall added that the issue was causing acute friction in step-families, leading to disputes about natural parents taking sides against their spouses.

“This is a theme which has featured in step-parent divorces over a number of years but to a very much smaller degree.

“What has been pronounced in the last three years in particular is the frequency with which economic factors are being blamed for children moving back in with parents and even bringing their own partners with them.

“Such a pattern not only increases whatever financial strains those parents may have but reduces the available physical space in households.

“Many step-parents complain that although they may have accepted their new partner’s children when they married, they felt their parental responsibilities had ended when those children became adults and left home.

“They argue that the freedom which they may have felt has been compromised to a point beyond repair. Some have have even described their returning step-children and their partners as ‘cuckoos’, upsetting the delicate balance at home.”

Mr Hall’s comments follow the publication of figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in November last year which revealed that the return of adult children to the family home was an important contributory factor in incidence of ‘multi-family households’ increasing by 66 per cent in only a decade.

The ONS acknowledged that house prices and a rise in youth unemployment over the period in question had been partially to blame.

Last May, a commercial survey concluded that a 50 per cent rise in property prices in the decade to 2015 had resulted in 6.8 million children aged between 15 and 34 living at home and forecast that the number was set to increase still further over the course of the next 10 years.

Another tranche of figures released by the ONS last month demonstrated that just over one-quarter of all divorcing couples featured at least one spouse who had been divorced before.

Mr Hall said that although the pressures of space and cash caused by having adult children return home were also felt by natural parents, they were less likely to lead to marital collapse.

He added that such break-ups were another factor in the trend of mid-life divorce or ‘silver splits’.

“In my experience, there is a distinction between the emotions generated for natural and step-parents in such situations, no matter how much support step-parents will invest in trying to make these relationships work.

“Natural parents seem to be more inclined to try and work through this kind of difficulty. Those who find that they cannot overcome the friction are the exception rather than the rule.

“However, it is simply more common to find step-families taking the decision to part because the pressures are too great.

“What may be relatively normal domestic disagreements between two parents living on their own are given an extra edge by the presence of an adult child and often perceived as a taking of sides.

“Most of these cases involve at least one spouse who has previously been divorced or widowed. They may have viewed a second marriage as a means of comfort in later life but have told me that exiting an unhappy relationship as preferable to remaining in a marriage made intolerable by these sorts of pressures.”

Share this post: