Just like how birds take turns coming to and leaving their nest to care for their little ones, some divorcing parents choose to maintain their family home for their children to live in while they take turns moving in and out of it.
When parents divorce, co-parenting arrangements are vital. And “nesting” is a potential divorced parenting tactic. The children stay in the “nest” (a.k.a. the family home) and the parents live elsewhere, either in a shared space outside of the family home or in separate places.
Basically, parents take the “hit,” initially, of the physical impact of their separation. They take turns switching between living spaces rather than adding that upheaval to their children’s lives.
When parents “nest” like this, they typically do so during a transition time rather than long-term. That transition time can be one month or two, or even a year and a half, though most families that nest do so for short periods. There’s no formal or externally imposed limit on how long parents can or should nest. Whether it works for a family or not and what each particular family’s needs determine if and for how long a family should nest.
Experts have opposing opinions on nesting as a divorced parenting technique.
Experts are strongly divided on the matter of whether or not nesting is a good idea, or even a successful co-parenting tactic, largely because the jury is out regarding whether it truly benefits children. While it’s beneficial for the children of divorced parents not to have to switch homes, it can also be both comforting to the children — because they are in the same room as they were in pre-family separation — and confusing.
Some clear benefits of nesting are not having to cart personal belongings between homes or needing to get used to a second home. No aspect of divorce is one-size-fits-all, though, and nesting even more so than other circumstances. As different divorce agreements work for different families, various ways to nest will or will not work for individual families.
Nesting works well for a minority of couples and families.
It can provide a beneficial way to transition to living separately from one’s spouse. If you’re divorcing amicably and need time to determine where else it’s best for one or both of you to live, it’s super important to keep your children in the marital home.
Or, maybe, finances require that one or both of you sleep on a friend’s couch for a while. Either way, nesting is worth considering.
At times, divorcing parents make quick decisions about who should move out and where they are moving to. Impulsive decisions often backfire, financially, emotionally, and pragmatically. Nesting often provides an opportunity to adequately think through these big decisions.
Some experts believe that nesting works best for folks who are sharing custody of their children near 50-50. However, it can also work well in families where one parent lives out of town and that parent comes in for the weekends or for other less frequent chunks of time.
Regardless of the split in parenting time, nesting absolutely works best with parents that can communicate well and with little tension.
Thus, they are able to prioritize their children’s needs over their own, and who have no major ax to grind with each other.
When does nesting not work for couples?
Nesting will not work for couples who have significant conflict. It also will not work for people who can’t conceive continuing to share space with their children’s other parent.
This is not a living situation to try on if you have any significant doubts about it.
However, some divorce professionals believe that nesting should never be considered.
If you’re wondering if nesting is a good option for your family, here are 5 questions you need to ask yourselves:
1. If you contemplate nesting, where would you sleep when in the original marital home and where would your soon-to-be ex sleep?
2. Can you take turns sleeping in the same bedroom that you had slept in together while married?
3. If the answer to the second question is “no,” is there another space in your home where you can sleep?
4. Do you believe that your children’s other parent is capable of managing a nesting arrangement?
5. How do you think that nesting will impact how you handle conflict with your children’s other parent?
One concern about nesting is that parents have less private space to work out their own emotions about the divorce. For that reason, nesting for some parents can breed a conflict playground.
Will your children be more confused or more comforted by such an arrangement? You and your soon-to-be-ex partner know your children better than anyone else. Word amongst divorce professionals is that younger children will benefit more from a nesting arrangement than older children. How old are your children? What are their personality styles? (Basically, how do they react to change and what boundaries do they need?)
Divorce professionals understand nesting pros and cons.
There are many resources — online, in-person, or via HIPPA compliant video conferencing — to help you think through whether nesting might work for you.
Whether nesting will work for you is a very personal decision, for both you and your partner.
Having even one or two sessions with a mental health professional or certified divorce coach that’s well-versed in divorce and nesting, in particular, will provide you with a chance to process the best way for you and your partner to move forward and separate.
Dr. Joyce, Divorce Consultant, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Divorce Coach, Collaborative Divorce Facilitator, and Child Custody Evaluator. With compassion and useful information, she supports people in all phases of divorce. Find her online at [email protected]