“Nesting”: A Creative Living Option for Divorced Spouses with Children

Please enjoy this guest blog post by Laura Rolnick, Esq.

On top of the financial and emotional aspects of dissolving a marriage, divorcing couples with children must also consider the very important question of where they will live, and where parenting time will take place. The growing recognition of the family as a sanctified entity even within divorce has inspired new and creative living arrangements, uniquely tailored to the psychological and financial needs of the large number of divorced families with children.

One living arrangement, gaining in popularity, which can be extremely helpful in salvaging a child’s emotional stability during the uprooting experience of divorce, has been termed “nesting.” Nesting during and after divorce involves the ex-spouses alternating their parenting time between the family home and in either one (shared) or two (separate) residences. The number of alternative residences will be governed by the family’s emotional needs and financial constraints. This arrangement allows the children to remain in the primary home at all times, which can provide both tremendous psychological advantages, as well as cautionary challenges.

Nesting can be a wonderful option for a divorcing family and should be considered particularly in the following circumstances:

  • Teenagers who are more socially and academically affected by and averse to “moving out” of their home each week to spend time with a divorced parent.
  • Younger children who have already moved homes several times and are in need of the stability afforded by remaining in a single living environment.
  • Children with anxiety, depression or other emotional or mood disorders for whom weekly living arrangement changes would exacerbate their condition.
  • Parental desire to eliminate the need for their child or children to deal with the additional hassles and habit changes required by weekly residence changes, particularly during the emotional adjustment of a new parental separation.
  • Parental desire to spend time with their child in the place where the child feels most rooted both physically and communally.
  • Cases in which selling a large family home immediately would be significantly disadvantageous financially.

The challenges and potential pitfalls of a nesting arrangement include the following:

  • Significantly more communication with an ex-spouse will be required in a nesting situation, and this can result in hostile and emotionally charged relationships being further embittered.
  • Ex-spouses must be able to afford one or two separate additional residences outside of the family home.
  • True separation and “moving on” emotionally can be more difficult for one or more ex-spouses in a nesting arrangement.
  • Real estate decisions will not necessarily be fully resolved at the time of divorce, which could result in delayed and prolonged acrimony between ex-spouses.

While nesting can provide many advantages for children, this arrangement should only be considered as a temporary transitional plan (one to two years maximum) and both parties must be fully committed to the arrangement. Additionally there should be an “out clause” in the settlement agreement, allowing for the nesting arrangement to end if it becomes too taxing for either spouse.

Innovative, though potentially challenging, nesting can be a financial and psychological lifesaver for both couples and children in a new divorce situation.

If you have questions about nesting or any other issues related to divorce, please contact us.

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Laura Beth Rolnick, Esq. is a freelance writer and attorney specializing in Family Law in New York, with a focus on mediation, amicable uncoupling and children’s best interests during divorce.