Is “Nesting” For You?


Nesting is a post-divorce living arrangement that has gotten a lot of press recently.  It’s a child-centered approach to co-parenting after divorce where the parents take turns moving in and out of the family home rather than the children moving between “mom” and “dad’s” home.  In theory, it puts the needs of the children first in that it can help ease the stress and confusion that surrounds a family when the parents get divorced. Proponents believe that it is easier for children to adapt to a new way of living if they are surrounded by their possessions, in their familiar environment and with less disruption to their daily routines. The parents either share or maintain separate residences where they live when it is not their parenting time.

Nesting is controversial, in that there are many reasons why it is a good idea, and an equal number of reasons as to why it won’t work and will end up causing even more disruption to the children.

On the plus side is the stability that can be maintained during the major life adjustment that necessarily occurs with divorce.  In order to be successful the parents must have had a low-conflict divorce. A nesting arrangement requires cooperation, communication and mutual respect of the parents towards each other.

A best case scenario would involve an agreement entered into by the parents that sets forth with specificity how the arrangement will work.  Issues such as adhering to a routine, meal times, homework and approaches to discipline should be included. The parents must have a clear and articulated understanding of boundaries during their “non-nesting” time. Are they free to come by unannounced and walk into their home?  Or should the interaction be limited to phone calls and texts?  Each individual case is different, so the more specific the parents are with each other, the greater the likelihood the arrangement will be successful.

Another predictor of successful nesting is a parents’ willingness and ability to abide by the terms of their agreement.  We can all be guilty of “we know best”, especially when it comes to our children.  It can be challenging to step back and allow an “ex” to run things in his or her own way.   If parents/ ex-spouses are committed to a successful nesting arrangement, then they will have to be willing and able to let go of the need to control the situation. This is extremely difficult under a traditional post-divorce two home living arrangement where there are “mom’s rules” and “dad’s rules”  It’s even more complicated when it happens under previously shared space where one spouse usually dominated the household.

When considering whether or not nesting is right for you, spend some time thinking about if it is possible for you and your ex-spouse to cooperate with each other in this manner and respect your different parenting and lifestyles.  Also consider how nesting will be funded and include that in your agreement.

Finally, there are many issues pertaining to a spouse’s ability to separate and move on that my prevent nesting from being a viable option post-divorce. If one party is hoping to reunite, is resentful of being left or hoping to manipulate the situation for his or her own benefit, nesting will not work.  In fact, it will be destructive to the children’s well being.

Nesting is not for most divorcing couples.  The level of trust, cooperation and respect required is often not present at the end of a divorce.  But, in some cases nesting can be very successful and satisfying to the family.