What Is Nesting and Does It Work as a Co-Parenting Strategy?

What is nesting?

Divorce can be an emotionally grueling process, especially when you have children. In addition to coming to terms with how your own day-to-day is going to evolve, your children, too, will have to get used to seeing their lives change, beginning with them residing with their parents individually.

But rather than shuffling them between two homes, some co-parents are leaning toward nesting as a means to acclimate their children to post-divorce life. If you are currently unfamiliar with this co-parenting strategy, read on.

What is nesting?

Nesting allows children to stay in their current living situation and be with each parent during the parent’s residential time in what was once the marital home. Instead, you and your co-parent are the ones going between the family home and a second house or apartment you share.

This could be a temporary process until you, as co-parents, can decide how your lives will look with your children post-divorce. Or it could remain the status quo for the foreseeable future.

The positives of nesting:

1. Finances

In certain situations, keeping the family home while renting out or purchasing a second space can be a smarter financial decision that causes less monetary strain, given the immediate cost of divorce. Making dramatic financial choices, such as selling the marital home right away, could be detrimental to you in the long run, particularly if your judgment is clouded by emotions.

Additionally, renting a second space rather than selling the marital home can be the safer choice if the housing market is down and you do not want to sell just yet. Sharing a second home with your ex-spouse in which you each take turns between the home and the second location can also be financially helpful, with the two of you sharing household expenses such as utilities, home insurance, and rent or mortgage payments, among others.

2. Emotions

Having the ability to stay in the marital home, where you made many happy memories, might be emotionally easier for you than having to change your environment entirely. If you are separated and want to work toward reuniting with your spouse, nesting could also make that process easier. Finally, the period of nesting can provide you with closure from your married life by allowing you to have the time you need to say a proper goodbye to the home before making larger-scale changes.

3. Stability for children

With nesting, children can maintain their routines as they were before your separation and divorce. While nesting is definitely a newer method when it comes to easing your family into the realities of divorce, it seems that children function better when less of their life is subject to change, at least right away.

For example, when parents nest, children are able to stay in their schools, helping them maintain relationships with teachers and peers. This can be very reassuring for them while they adjust to changes at home. In theory, children should also be better able to enjoy quality time one-on-one with each parent in an environment familiar and comfortable to them.

It can be helpful for children not to feel as though they have to choose a parent to live with or, similarly, for you to figure out your custody situation (residential time) right away. A period of trial and error can help give you the insights you need as to what living situation will be best for you and your children.

4. Stability for parents

You may also benefit from the stability your children stand to gain from nesting since you will not have to create new routines for them during what is already an adjustment period for the entire family. Instead, you can devote your time to being with your children in the family home without having to worry about, for example, how they are adjusting to their new bedroom and without the distraction and pressure that comes with having to unpack and set up a home after a move.

Then, on those days when you are not with your children, you can enjoy the privacy you have just to be yourself in your new, alternate space. You can take this alone time to adjust to your new single status and engage in self-care, including sleep, which most parents, especially those in the throes of divorce, need more of.

The negatives of nesting:

1. Finances

The cost of paying both a mortgage and a second rent or another mortgage can be unrealistic for many families. And unless you have relatives or friends nearby that you can stay with, nesting at all may not be something you are in a position to try.

If you do decide to nest, it, to a certain extent, ties your financial status to your ex-spouse and requires that you are able to healthily discuss your mortgage or rent payment, utilities, and the cost of maintaining your children’s lives, among other issues, amid this new living situation.

In other words, it requires your co-parenting relationship to be — and stay — amicable. During the divorce process, as you are negotiating various aspects of your divorce and are dividing assets, communication can become strained quickly.   

2. Emotions

Sometimes nesting can make you feel like you have stalled, as though you are halfway between your married life and the new life you are about to embark upon. Rather than beginning that next chapter, nesting can make it easier to fall back into old ways or an old (negative) mindset, which can make the reality of the changes in your life difficult to accept.

This can also be true for children, who may have difficulty fully comprehending the reality of what it means for their parents to be divorced because their lives have not changed substantially enough for them to comprehend the split fully. Kids can also adopt false hope that their parents will get back together because they are still seeing each parent in their old home.

3. A potential source of conflict

With the sharing of space will inevitably come awkward conversations around your new lives as single adults. Again, your ability to communicate with your ex-spouse openly, honestly, and respectfully will usually prove to be the deciding factor as to whether nesting can and will work for your family.

More specifically, you will need to be able to discuss sensitive issues like dating and what that means logistically, given your current living situation and the fact you are sharing common spaces, albeit not at the same time. The same holds for discussions about finances. Inasmuch as you are sharing certain expenses, you will have to be open about what you can afford and are willing to pay in support of this system.

Even the more day-to-day aspects of sharing a common space can cause problems, especially if one spouse is less prone to doing their share of the cleaning or uses up all of the toilet paper, for instance, without buying more. Indeed, the imbalances present in your marriage can very much carry over into your divorce. Seemingly small issues can pile up fast and create more tension, which is, again, why co-parents must be able to communicate well with one another from the get-go and continue to.

4. Freedom

The back and forth of nesting can make it difficult for you to fully explore who you are in this new phase of life simply because the logistics result in you never feeling quite settled or comfortable in your space with the privacy everyone should have. In most cases, when nesting, both homes are shared, which can also cause you to feel more burdened than you would by the weight of your former relationship if your children were the ones going between two homes.

Find a Seattle divorce attorney who can guide you about nesting as a co-parenting strategy.

While nesting certainly is not for everyone or necessarily a sustainable solution for the long haul, it can provide a helpful adjustment period for children. It can also allow co-parents the breathing room to solidify the logistics of a divorce without them feeling the pressure to have all the answers immediately.

If you are embarking on divorce and considering nesting, or you are currently nesting and would like to discuss your residential options moving forward, we can help. Our experienced team of Seattle divorce lawyers is here to discuss with you various co-parenting strategies, including nesting, to get you through the divorce process and beyond. Call us today.


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