Perhaps you have heard of parents “Nesting” (sometimes called “Birds-nesting”) while separated or divorcing. Nesting refers to a transitional arrangement where parents continue to share the family home and take turns being “on duty” with their children. The children stay in the home full time, which gives them more time to adapt to the other changes in the family. The parents may live in separate areas within the home or, more commonly, in another location when they are “off-duty.” Some parents share the off-site residence, while others find separate living quarters, or stay with friends or family. The goal is usually to provide a stable home for the children while the marital status is in flux. These parents work out agreements about communication, schedules and finances. Sharing the nest is usually temporary, until further along in the divorce process when decisions about the home and the timeshare schedule are made. Parents may nest for months or even several years. Some parents agree to nest until a milestone is reached, such as the children’s graduation from high school.
Nesting works well for parents who are able to communicate respectfully with each other, and who can respectfully manage leaving the family home in reasonable condition when turning over the duties to the other parent. Studies show that children suffer when their parents are in conflict. Nesting can be a good choice for parents who have minimal conflict. These parents are willing to put their children’s welfare ahead of their own. It can be hard to move in and out of the family home, and these parents experience first-hand what their children may experience when they live under two roofs.
Advantages: Nesting provides some stability for the children while they adjust to their parents’ separation and divorce. Their routines may not change much. The children have quality time with each parent. Some nesting parents call themselves “apartners” as they live apart while they partner as parents. Nesting gives you both time to sort out the other divorce-related issues before making big decisions and changes about housing. If nesting is during a trial separation, and the parents are both actively working on the marriage, some parents may be able to reconcile.
Disadvantages: Most adults find it disruptive to move in and out of the family home, and the alternate location may be less than ideal. It may be costly to support the family home as well as two other living quarters. Nesting is not advisable in high conflict relationships, or where there are coercive control issues. An explicit agreement regarding schedules with the children, finances, and communication is essential. Nesting becomes problematic when either parent develops a new serious, long term relationship. Nesting is not advisable unless both parents trust each other.
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