The term “nesting” is used to describe an arrangement where the children remain in the family home while the divorcing parents take turns living in the family home and in another location. (The parents move in and out of the home rather than the children moving between homes.) Nesting is an option that some parents consider as a transitional parenting arrangement because they want to keep the children’s living arrangements in place for a period of time during and/or post divorce. In practice, nesting is something that requires cooperation and communication from both parents, and careful consideration should be given before nesting is used.
In any parenting arrangement following a divorce, good communication, flexibility, cooperation, and respect need to be at the forefront for co-parenting to effectively work. When it comes to schedules, and especially when children are involved in school or other activities, parents need to be able to work with one another to ensure that the agreed-upon plan is followed. To review considerations and questions on creating an effective parenting plan please refer to “Creating an Effective Parenting Plan: Considerations and Questions for Parents.”
With nesting, an additional piece is added to the situation in that the parents have overlapping living arrangements. Some parents move in and out of one apartment and the family home and others move in and out of separate residences and the family home if the family budget will allow this option. While the parents will not be staying at the family home at the same time in most cases, having use of the same space creates another aspect of co-parenting that requires communication and cooperation. Before the nesting arrangement can begin, certain decisions should be made for the plan to work smoothly. For example, what part of the family home will constitute “personal space” for each parent? What responsibilities will each parent have for the 2nd and/or 3rd location(s)? The parents may want to create a schedule and ground rules for the family home’s maintenance and cleaning to ensure that the parties are dividing these responsibilities fairly (or proportionate to each party’s time spent in the family home). Details on the schedule and ground rules become particularly important if the parents are moving in and out of one apartment. An example of ground rules can be as simple as not leaving dirty dishes in the sink or dirty towels and sheets for the incoming parent.
Another consideration when thinking about nesting is the length of time for the arrangement. Because nesting requires at least two and possibly three total living spaces, the expense can be higher than other arrangements. The length of time can also be affected by how each parent adjusts after the divorce. For example, after a certain amount of time one parent (or possibly both) may no longer feel comfortable having an overlapping residence with a former spouse. It may be important to consider a default date for the nesting phase to end in order to effectively move forward after the divorce. Nesting is often considered as a short-term solution to ease the transition for the children during or immediately after the divorce.
Changes to living situations are an inevitable part of the divorce process. An arrangement like nesting can aid certain families, if the circumstances are appropriate and practical, by allowing children to keep a certain routine and comfort in staying in the family home. Nesting can provide a smoother transition for everyone when it works well. Careful consideration should be given to the arrangement, as many factors will be at play, including communication, co-parenting objectives, schedules of the parents and children and financial considerations. An experienced attorney can assist navigating the various factors than can impact nesting and other parenting arrangements.