Now that you and your spouse have decided to divorce, you need to determine which custody arrangement makes the most sense for your family, while providing stability for your children. If your co-parenting relationship is amicable, you may want to consider the child-centered approach “nesting.”
The idea is that the “baby birds” never leave the “nest,” while parents move in and out according to their parenting time. Nesting maximizes children’s stability and minimizes opportunities for miscommunication between parents. For instance, homework assignments aren’t left at Mom or Dad’s because the child is not moving between two households — and parents don’t end up arguing because one forgot the child’s backpack during the custody exchange.
Still wondering what a nesting arrangement looks like, exactly? Here are a few configurations that work.
- Mom keeps the family home and Dad rents an apartment. Dad stays in Mom’s home when it’s his visitation time and Mom stays elsewhere. (Or vice versa.)
- The parents keep a vacation home that they share for their nesting arrangement. They can either choose to spend their time with the kids remain at the vacation home, or stay there themselves when it’s their time off.
- With long-distance nesting, Mom travels to the children’s home and stays there for an extended time while Dad stays elsewhere. (Or vice versa.)
Successful Nesting Requirements
Nesting works best in a custody situations where divorcing parents agree on most basic issues. Still, the arrangement requires sacrifice and flexibility on the part of both parents. Successful nesting involves:
- Financial means. Parents must be able to afford keeping the family home as well as renting (or owning) one or two other places.
- Flexibility. Parents must be willing to change their place of residence often.
- Child-centered philosophy. Organizing your life around your children’s needs requires emotional maturity: you must put aside feelings of awkwardness staying in your ex’s home and perhaps sacrifice the experience of “moving on” that’s more common in traditional custody arrangements.
- Amicable co-parenting relationship. You must be able to be civil in front of the children and communicate effectively. It’s important to let your co-parent be in charge when it’s their time with the kids and they’re staying in “your” home.
- House rules. You must be a good housemate. This means following agreed-upon house rules, such as picking up after yourself, buying/replacing groceries, splitting some bills, and no snooping . Doing otherwise will burden the other parent and invite resentment.
Barriers To Nesting
Did you say “yes” to all the requirements listed above? That’s a good start, but you also need to consider issues that hinder a successful nesting arrangement:
- A change in your financial picture. A job loss, unforeseen medical expenses, or other financial hits may mean you can no longer afford to keep the family home.
- Introduction of a new partner. When one parent gets a significant other, they may no longer want to move out on a weekly basis. They may also feel uncomfortable having their co-parent stay in the home that now includes a new partner.
An important note: what works at the start of a divorce may not make sense as time passes. For instance, if sharing a house keeps both of you from moving forward with your lives, you may want to sell the family home and get two separate residences. Transitioning out of a nesting arrangement doesn’t mean you’ve failed. The reality is that all custody arrangements need to be flexible to support the family’s changing needs.
Remember, baby birds doesn’t stay in the nest forever. It’s there to give them the care and nurturing they need…and then it’s time to spread their wings and fly!