Nesting: Giving the children “custody” of the house after a divorce

A benefit of using collaborative law for separation and divorce is that the parties can work together with a team of professionals to create a situation that works for everyone, including the children. Collaborative law allows attorneys and other neutral professionals help develop creative and practical solutions with a focus on the unique needs of each family. When there are children involved, decision-making and parenting access schedules can easily become positional discussions out of fear of loss or anger.  That being said, most couples are eager to make their own decisions rather than have a third party decide the family’s fate. Most parents want to find a way to work together on a parenting plan that prioritizes what works best for the whole family.

Nesting is one option for parenting during separation and divorce.   This concept gives children figurative custody of the family home. Rather than the children going from one parent’s home to another, the children stay put in the family home. The parents on the other hand each move into their own residence and split their time between that residence and the family home.  In some families, the parents share the second home and move in and out of the family home due to economic concerns.

windows-1184326-300x200The overall benefit of nesting is that the children keep the consistency of their home. The children are able to keep their belongings in the home and maintain the same bedroom and living space regardless of which parent is spending time with them. A benefit for the parents comes with the fact that it eliminates the need for shuffling the children’s homework, books, sports equipment, etc. from home to home.

While nesting may be very beneficial for the children, it also requires logistical and practical considerations that the parents must be able to discuss before finalizing this decision. For example, nesting can be a financially demanding option. It requires the familial home plus two separate residences for each parent unless the parents agree to share one second home. The parents would also need to discuss and determine how the carrying costs of the residences (such as the mortgage, rent, utilities, etc.) will be made going forward.

Aside from the financial considerations are the logistical issues. Each parent essentially has two residences under the nesting model. Having belongings in two places can be stressful, and the parents must also discuss any communal items that will remain in the family home. Because the children will be remaining in the home, items like furniture, appliances, and electronics (like a family computer) will usually be remaining. When parents elect to share one second home, there are other considerations such as privacy and how moving in and out of the second home will be managed.  Expectations regarding personal property, cleaning, purchasing food and cooking in each home need to be clarified in advance and memorialized in the written plan.

In divorce, as the family restructures itself, it is important that each parent create new traditions with the children. With nesting, it may be difficult for some traditions to be duplicated in order for each parent to partake in them separately with the children. Whether traditions include lighting the menorah or trimming the tree, parents may want to decide if it is feasible for both parents to be included in these holiday traditions with the children. Alternatively, if the situation does not allow for both parents to participate in holiday traditions together, a schedule can be created so that each parent is given the opportunity to enjoy different holiday events with the children. For example, one parent may trim the tree with the children while the other parent decorates the home with them.

Custom-Stock-Photo-for-Blogs-300x200Although nesting can provide a more comfortable situation for the children through a divorce, it is not considered to be a permanent solution. Many parents find it useful to agree on a time-frame for the nesting process. As the children grow, they will become more comfortable with their new family situation and adjustments can gradually be made to the living arrangements. As discussed above, nesting requires each parent to essentially maintain a separate residence or share the separate residence in addition to the family home. Depending on the circumstances, this situation may not be sustainable for an extended period of time.

An experienced attorney can assist with developing an effective and practical parenting plan.  The practical consequences of any option should be thoroughly explored before memorializing a long-term plan.