What is Nesting?
Nesting is child custody arrangement that works best as a strategy for managing the transitional period after separation. It allows children to stay in the family home during this period rather than being shuttled between homes. Instead, parents alternate time with them in the family “nest.” During their off-time, parents maintain a temporary living situation, such as staying with family or friends or even sharing a rented space on an alternating basis.
The nesting arrangement is uniquely child-centered. Its goal is to lessen the trauma of divorce by limiting disruption and maintaining stability during divorce. While big changes are happening in their family, children can keep the security of household routines, neighborhood friends, and after-school activities.
Children are also given the immediate assurance that they will continue maintain meaningful relationships with each of their parents despite the divorce. It also allows the family as a whole to grieve together while they gradually move into two separate households.
Nesting also has some advantages for parents. It buys them some time to sort through and determine the best solutions for their future living arrangements. It also gives them time to adapt to new schedules and responsibilities while home life for their children remains much the same.
A nesting arrangement requires a heightened level of communication and cooperation as parents confer about household arrangements and the children’s needs. To be successful, nesting depends on the ability of parents to contain their conflict, remain amicable, and continue to work cooperatively.
Nesting is only appropriate as long as parents can work together. Admittedly, nesting is not ideal for parents, and, over time, the heightened level of contact can create potential for conflict. Not only do parents bear the brunt of disruption, nesting requires that they continue to share an intimate physical space and maintain financial ties to one another. When that relationship falters, nesting is likely to foster conflict. This risk of conflict is why nesting is not a realistic option as an indefinite co-parenting arrangement.
Tips for Success
Parents must be aware of the potential drain nesting may have on them and set an ending date as soon as is practical. During nesting, parents should set clearly defined ground rules. Agreements should be reached about scheduling, financial obligations, protection of privacy, and household duties. Ground rules must be absolutely clear, and parents must be willing to stick to the agreed-upon arrangements.
Nesting is a best case scenario for stability and, therefore, preferred where possible. But it has an expiration date. By keeping parents tied together, preventing them from moving forward, the nesting arrangement tests their ability to sustain cooperation and amicable communication. As an transitional strategy, nesting gets a thumbs up. As a long term solution, though, beware too much of a good thing.