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Nesting as a transitional arrangement in divorce

When a couple decides to separate, one of the first considerations is regarding what will happen to the children. Many parents begin to question how the separation will affect the children, whether the separation will affect the parent-child relationship, and how will the transition impact the daily lives of all family members. One of the biggest and most significant questions is often how to minimize any negative impact on the children.

Each of these concerns is important to consider. One of the ways that some couples choose to minimize the impact on their children's lives is to "nest" or "bird-nest" during the transition from separation to divorce. This process can last a few weeks or months, or even years depending on individual circumstances. Nesting also gives both parents the opportunity to feel what life will be like for the children, once the parents each have their own residence and the children have to move between the two homes of the parents.

Nesting involves the children remaining in the marital home while the parents take turns staying in the marital home during their "on-duty" parenting time. This schedule will be different for each family; however, some typical schedules may be a This can be a week-on, week-off arrangement, or a schedule commonly referred to as 5-2-2-5, in which the parents each have two week-days of parenting time and then alternating weekends. Sometimes, parents even share an apartment when they are not with the children in the marital residence. 

Whatever schedule parents agree on to pursue nesting, one thing is clear about nesting - you must have a civil and business like relationship with your co-parent. If you do not have the ability calmly and rationally discuss how the arrangement is going to proceed, then you will find yourselves in conflict in very short order. It is important to have very clear rules and boundaries for the cleaning and maintenance of any shared residences.

Some of the considerations that parents will want to discuss when deciding whether nesting is appropriate for their circumstances include:

  • Financial considerations: taking on an additional residence - or two - for the off-duty parent can be an added expenses that the family cannot afford. Some options may include staying with friends or family while this transition proceeds.
  • Shared living spaces: the parents must be able to share the marital home with their children and trust the other parent will respect their privacy and personal space.
  • Communication: both parents must be able to communicate about the logistics of the shared arrangement including division of finances, chores, day-to-day children's activities, parenting time schedule, rules of the house, etc. Without this communication, the nesting will result in additional stress and conflict. 

While nesting is not right for everyone, it can be a feasible option for those who are willing to put in some hard work and who want to minimize the impact of separation on their children. Working with professionals, including mental health providers, a family law attorney or a mediator can be beneficial in assessing whether nesting is the right choice for your family. 

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