Nesting is about minimizing disruption for the children when their parents are separating. The idea is based upon having the children remain in the family home while the parents rotate in and out during their parenting time. When it is mom’s time with the children, she resides in the family home with them. When it is the father’s turn with the children, he moves over to the marital home. This allows the children to have the least amount of change and with it transfer stress. The adults are the ones being shuffled between more than one residence, rather than the children.
This is a novel approach that is receiving increased interest. Parents who consider this arrangement desire to minimize the stress on the children and place the disruption upon the adults instead. Nesting is ideal when parents are seeking a separation while they determine if they will divorce. However, it must be stressed that nesting can either be ideal or a complete disaster.
Typically parents rent a one bedroom apartment while the children remain in the home with one parent at a time. Then, the parents exchange places and the other parent resides in the one bedroom apartment. The reason this is ideal during separation is so the children do not have to shuttle back and forth between homes enabling their lives to remain as stable as possible. In addition, the financial drain on the family during the separation is significantly reduced. Another nesting arrangement involves each adult purchasing their own personal dwelling, while the children remain in the family home. This of course provides privacy for the parents however it creates a financial strain for all but a few.
Besides the advantage of creating continuity, the children do not need to carry items back and forth between households and, there is no need to purchase duplicate items or worry about leaving hockey equipment or math books behind. The children keep their friendships, their neighbors and the majority of their life remains as familiar as possible.
As parents began to learn about nesting, some actually consider keeping nesting indefinitely. This is potentially dangerous as nesting is generally far too complicated for most parents. Without the assistance of an experienced family mediator, parents may naively opt for a permanent nesting arrangement. This creates the same problem that occurs when parents write a parenting plan based upon current jobs, their child’s current age or other factors that tend to be temporary.
Important factors to consider regarding nesting:
NESTING DURING A TEMPORARY SEPARATION: Nesting can be ideal for parents who are separating to work on their relationship but need to live apart. They are not sure if they are going to divorce so this keeps the environment constant for the children while the parents work on their relationship. Otherwise the child must adjust to having two homes during this attempt to reconcile. If the parents do reconcile the children do not have to change residences again as they have been able to remain in their homes while their parents do the shuffling.
Even when nesting is done as part of a separation the parents need to write up clear expectations regarding parenting time, maintenance of the home, guidelines about management of the children, how expenses are paid, and expectations regarding dating, couple’s therapy and other personal matters during this temporary phase.
NESTING DURING EARLY PHASE OF A COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE: In a non-adversarial, no court divorce, parents are able to experiment with parenting schedules. During the early phase of a collaborative divorce this allows parents to get out from living under the same roof quickly. This does not require that they immediately determine who will be the primary parent and remain in the marital home. This is an ideal time to implement nesting and creates the least stress for children by avoiding shuttling them back and forth. It may also provide a temporary arrangement that will help them smooth the transitions into a life of divorce. A child specialist will be able to help the parents’ transition from the nesting plan to a permanent plan.
HOW TO MAKE NESTING SUCCESSFUL:
- Nesting works best when parents plan to share joint physical custody so they are co-parents rotating in and out such as in one week rotations.
- Parents need to be able to communicate effectively while using impulse control to shield their child from conflict. They need an effective communication system so that the children are not caught in the middle. They need to avoid being in the home at transfers when the children may get a false sense of reconciliation fantasy.
- Parents must reside close to each other.
- The parents need to be emotionally detached enough to separate their marital relationship from their parenting relationship.
- The parents must be willing to reside in the family home and respect each other’s boundaries.
- The parents need to be able to duplicate discipline and household responsibilities.
- The parents must be willing to abide by agreements regarding the children and their schedules. Parents must be able to abide by written agreements regarding the maintenance of the home and such ground rules about financial responsibilities.
- For a permanent nesting arrangement, all the details must be included in the settlement agreement. There must also be a clear plan regarding the sale of the family home and all that is involved in that “not so small” detail.
DISADVANTAGES OF PERMANENT NESTING:
The long term disadvantages of sharing a residence are extensive. For example, neither parent has their own space nor any privacy. The parents are required to communicate not just on co-parenting matters but also on home maintenance. The number of areas to communicate upon is substantial. Neither parent can make any unilateral decisions about the residence since they are sharing it with their soon to be former spouse.
It is difficult for parents during a divorce to project into the future. For example, when they have a significant other or new spouse in the picture, nesting becomes a real problem. Do you and your new spouse have to move every week into the “old” marital home and share the old martial bed? Of course not! What if there are stepchildren? Do you leave your new spouse and the stepchildren behind to nest on alternating weeks? These changes must be considered. The only way nesting is realistic on a permanent basis is when the family can afford all three residences- one for each parent as well as the family home for the children.
As the number of parents considering “nesting” increases, it is imperative that parents seek the assistance of an experienced family mediator to discuss their ideas. Since divorce is about twenty percent legal and eighty percent emotional, it makes sense that parents may prematurely jump on the band wagon of nesting due to the emotional desire to minimize the pain experienced by their children. On a temporary basis nesting may be ideal and certainly perhaps the most loving thing parents can do. Nesting requires a very unique set of parents who are emotionally detached from each other, they are able to make the sacrifice and are not angry or adversarial towards each other. The parents must be exceptionally mature and child focused.
Widely known for her expertise in the area of divorce and the family, she provides training to educators, family law and mental health professionals, as well as “High-conflict divorce” and “Parenting Coordination”.She has trained parenting coordinators since 1997, and as a result, co-authored the first and only comprehensive model of parenting coordination. Respected in their field, Susan has conducted numerous seminars on the international, national, state and local levels on topics such as parental alienation and visitation refusal, interviewing children, therapeutic and supervised visitation and developmentally appropriate time-sharing plans.
She has been awarded clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and is a member of multiple organizations including the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.Mrs. Boyan maintains a private practice in Georgia.
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