Nesting: Rarely Right and Only Briefly
No Legal Advice Intended: This information is not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.
What is Nesting?
Nesting is a co-parenting arrangement where the children remain in the marital home 100% of the time and the parents alternate spending their parenting time in the marital home. The parents either rent a small apartment or live with family or friends when it’s not their parenting time in the marital home. Nesting is usually explored where the parents can afford the mortgage on the marital home, but cannot afford two separate homes large enough for the children. It is likely only appropriate in the short term during the divorce and not more than a few months.
Why choose Nesting as a co-parenting arrangement?
With rising housing and rental costs, we are seeing more parents considering nesting. Co-parents may choose nesting because it allows the children to stay in the marital home 100% of the time, which some believe provides the advantage of stability to the children during a transitional time. Also, it is less financially burdensome for parents to maintain one house and a small apartment than each parent to rent a second space large enough for the children. By either renting a small apartment or living with family or friends and alternating in and out of the marital home, nesting is an affordable option. However, it is really only a short-term solution.
Who should choose Nesting as an option?
First, nesting should only be considered by parents who have a low-conflict divorce, where the parents both agree on getting divorced, still trust one another, and communicate well. Nesting increases your contact and continued co-operation. Even so, nesting is best used only as a short-term option only for a few months. For this arrangement to work for co-parents, clear house rules will need to be established and followed. House rules would include household chores, restocking groceries, and who pays which bills at home. You will still need a Parenting Plan that clearly defines each parent’s parenting time in the marital home.
What are the pros of Nesting?
Children remain in the same home
Children get to remain in the marital home, instead of needing to go back and forth to the parents’ new home(s). However, see below for how this can grow into a negative.
The main positive of nesting is financial savings. It is more affordable in a very expensive rental market.
What are the cons of Nesting?
Confusion for children
Nesting may create confusion and difficulty processing the familial change in children. Because the children remain in the marital home where family memories were made and they still see both parents residing there part of the time, the children may be confused and anxious about whether their parents will reconcile. Adults who grew up a children in nesting scenarios have reported their experience created confusion on who’s house they were living in and whether their parents were working on getting back together. Some psychologists have suggested that sheltering children from the actual reality is harmful rather than helpful.
Mental and emotional impact on parent
Nesting involves staying connected to your soon-to-be ex-spouse both emotionally and financially by continuing to share the same home and coordinating payment of bills and expenses related to the home.
It is also a difficult scenario to explain and incorporate new romantic partners into.
Parents can also find this makes it difficult to move on from the relationship and feel like they remain in a “between” state not actually moving forward. It can be hard on the parents moving back and forth between homes and having no single space that is their own.
Everyone wants to do the best for their children, but encompassed in that is doing what's best for you to be a parent.
Difficulty Co-Managing the House
It is the rare divorcing couple that can continue to coordinate household chores after divorce. Imagine returning to the house for your parenting week and the other parent has left you a mess to clean up. Who gets to change furniture and fixtures, make updates, paint rooms, change the children’s bedroom suite, mow the lawn? For most people, if they could manage the level of cooperation needed for nesting they probably would not be getting divorced. If you have any amount of conflict with your ex-spouse, it is unlikely to improve with nesting.
Nesting can tie your hands financially as well. Often nesting is considered because the parents want to maintain the marital home and both remain on the mortgage for the marital home instead of selling it or being bought out by the other parent. Nesting is often considered because the parents realize they cannot afford as much housing separately as they did when married and seek to find a way to keep the house as if they were married. This shared financial obligation keeps the parents from being able purchase another home or could even impact their lending ability to rent a space of their own. It can effectively prolong the financial situation existing during the divorce. A large purpose of the divorce process is to separate your finances and co-owing a house together merely delays separating that major asset.
Nesting can create conflicts even if none existed before. It should be out of the question for any situation with domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental illness.
Failed Nesting Can Be Worse for Kids
If the children are exposed to increased conflict, nesting can be worse than if it never occurred.
Delaying the Inevitable
Someone will eventually want to end the nesting arrangement as life changes, feelings change, and new relationships are formed. Usually this separation of your lives is established by the conclusion of the divorce. Maintaining such a close relationship after divorce creates uncertainty as to how long it will last, who will end it, and how it will end.
After divorce, you lack good court remedies to resolve co-living conflicts. There’s no continued checking in on your case after you divorce (there is minimal monitoring of your case during divorce in the first place). The court only acts after divorce if you ask the court to act, and you’ll have few grounds to ask to do this after divorce.
After you are divorced, the court has few remedies to deal with co-living conflicts. Basically, it can just enforce your Parenting Plan and Separation Agreement. The domestic relations process is designed to deal with divorcing couples and enforce orders on divorced couples. Usually agreements are written for divorced couples to take action in a few months. After divorce your remedy is likely only filing a contempt action if someone breaches the agreement. Contempt is a clunky remedy that takes months to enforce. It’s not ideal for people sharing a house week-to-week. If someone is ready to force a change, it’s not forced quickly by the court. Any nesting agreement will need to be very clear about terms and timing and don’t expect to rush to court for help when things go awry (e.g. one spouse moving out without agreement and ceasing payment for utilities, one spouse moving in a new romantic partner during their week, one spouse removing or changing furniture).
As you can likely tell, the potential cons of nesting often outweigh the pros. If you do consider nesting, it should only be a very brief time.
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