For those with children, one of the most challenging aspects of divorce is learning how to co-parent together during their separation. For many families, the emotions surrounding the divorce—anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, and so on—can spill over into their parenting communications. During the divorce, the judge and the professionals working on your divorce will expect both parents to actively work to shield the children from conflict. So, it is important that newly separated parents focus on how to make the transition from one household to two as smooth as possible for the children and avoid conflict during those transitions.
Many couples are still living together with their children in the marital home when they decide to divorce. Living together during the divorce process can be difficult for the parents and can make it difficult for them to avoid fighting and other forms of conflict in front of the kids. It’s important for parents to consider what options they have to separate to keep the peace between them, and protect the kids from additional conflict, while also providing stability for their children during this difficult time.
One option for parents to consider at the beginning of their separation is “nesting”. This is a process where the children remain in the home where they lived with both parents, and the parents move back and forth from the home to another residence. This is usually done on a short-term basis (think six months or so) while the parents are finalizing their divorce. Nesting is generally done in anticipation of dividing the children’s time between two households but provides the family with additional time to adjust to the parents’ separation.
Pros and Cons of Nesting During a Divorce
Here are some “pros” to consider if nesting sounds like a possibility in your divorce.
1. Nesting promotes stability for the children.
Because the children remain in the same home, they do not have the deal with the adjustment of a new home, new bedroom, not having all of their possessions, and the like, which comes with kids having to move between homes. This is especially helpful for younger children, for whom adjusting to a new home, bedroom, and bed could be especially disruptive during the divorce process.
2. It accommodates the children’s daily routine.
Most children have a fairly set daily routine, which generally provides children with the comfort of knowing what to expect, and when to expect it. When parents divide households, they often have to create new routines for the children, which can be confusing and disruptive for them at home and at school/daycare. Keeping the child/children in one home helps avoid disrupting this routine, which can help support them emotionally throughout the day.
3. It eases the adjustment to having divorced parents.
For many children, having their parents separate is a huge and difficult change. While nesting is not a permanent option for families, it does allow children more time and space to adjust to the fact that their parents are separating. It also gives children the chance to adjust to the idea that they will have two homes moving forward by giving them time to visit their second home, and spend time there, before transitioning to being a two-home family.
Here are some nesting “cons” to consider as you contemplate your separation:
1. Nesting can be expensive.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of nesting is the cost. For many, it means maintaining three homes—one for each parent and one of the kids. Having three rents/mortgages to pay every month is an expense that many families cannot realistically afford. Some families have one house that they share with the other parent, so that the “off parent” stays there when not at the family house. While this is one way to reduce costs, it raises some privacy concerns because the parents are unable to have their own space.
2. It can be difficult logistically.
One of the most significant issues with nesting on a short-term nesting situation is finding short term housing. Many landlords will not want to rent an apartment for less than a year, or even six months, which can make it difficult to find alternate housing even if they have the means to afford multiple homes. While there are options like long-term housing hotels, which generally rent by the week or month, that can get expensive and doesn’t provide the most comfortable living situation for the parents.
3. Nesting can create added conflict and resentment between the parents.
Continuing to maintain a house together can result in added conflict between the parents when it comes to cleanliness, household chores, and the like. The frustration of coming home to a messy house is a strain that many experience during their marriage. During a divorce, the feelings of frustration and resentment can amplify significantly. Likewise, having parenting time exchanges at the house instead of at the children’s school, or another more neutral location, can also result in added conflict in front of the kids. If parents elect to participate in nesting, there need to be clear ground rules about how the housework will be done during each parents’ time at the home. Likewise, the parties need to agree that they will not use mutual time at the home, or exchanges, as a time to discuss matters related to the divorce or air their grievances.
Consult a Chicago Divorce Attorney for Guidance on Nesting
The attorneys at Anderson & Boback have worked with families at all stages of the divorce and separation process. We can answer your questions about co-parenting and whether nesting might be a good option for your family based on our experience working with families in situations like yours.