Is A Nesting Plan Right for Your Family Post-Divorce?

Traditionally, when a couple with children divorces, one parent moves out of the family home into a new home. The custody or parenting plan that the family has splits the children’s time between the old family home and the new single-parent residence. But could there be a better way to ease the transition of divorce on the children by allowing them to stay full time in their family home, at least for a specified period of time, regardless of the parenting plan?

“Nesting”, has, for some families, provided a unique alternative that both eases the stress of leaving the family home and saves the parents money by not having to maintain two costly households.

Nesting close up: an example of how families utilize nesting
Consider the following nesting arrangement:

Steve and Margaret have decided to get divorced after 20 years of marriage during which they have had two children, Sam, age 14, and Dean, age 10. Both Sam and Dean have lived in their family home their entire lives, attended the same school system, participated in local athletics, and have close friends in the neighborhood. In a nesting arrangement, the children would live in the family home full-time; regardless of which parent has parenting time at the moment. There are obvious benefits to Sam and Dean by not having to move back and forth between two different homes. The children wouldn’t have to go through the stress and emotional trauma of leaving their childhood home behind, being separated from their friends and familiar surroundings, and potentially going to a new school, all while struggling with their parents divorce.

But what happens to Steve and Margaret? Steve and Margaret would share a small apartment together. When Steve has the kids, he lives at the family home while Margaret lives at the apartment, and vice versa. This way only the parents are moving back and forth, thus saving their children from going through the emotional stress of relocating themselves.

Factors to consider when developing a nesting arrangement
There can be significant financial benefits to having a nesting agreement. Oftentimes, the couple will rent a studio, or one bedroom apartment; not only does the family save money on another mortgage, or expensive apartment, but also saves money furnishing a larger space.

However, not all parents have the means to rent even a small apartment, until the costly marital home is sold. In that case, if possible, each of the parents goes to live with friends or relatives on their time outside of the marital home.

There can also be unique complications with a nesting arrangement. It generally works best when parents have good communication skills, are willing to be thoughtful and respectful of how they leave the space for the other parent, and are willing to set and keep to certain rules and guidelines in leaving the home ready for the other parent. Therefore, it is important to address potential issues before the occur.

  • How will expenses be divided?
  • How will arranging for household food and provisions be handled?
  • What are the expectations of each party as to the condition they will find the shared space in upon their return?
  • Does either party have ground rules they want to establish, such as for privacy when entertaining friends in the shared space?
  • What will happen if one party begins a relationship with another person, especially should they decide to cohabitate?

It is important for families to understand that while nesting can solve many of the transitional issues they face during a divorce, it is generally only a temporary solution. When one or both parties enter into a relationship with someone else, or the catalyst for beginning nesting ends; like your children graduating high school, at some point, the parties will have to seek permanent living arrangements. Provisions for what will happen after the nesting arrangement ends should also be addressed in your agreement.

Although nesting arrangements can get complicated, a complete and well thought out nesting arrangement could minimize disruptions to your children’s daily lives, and save a potentially significant amount of money at a time it is most needed.

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