I have worked with men and women who were granted primary residential custody and those who were designated as alternative residential parent. I’ve seen families come up with pretty creative ways to keep some stability in their children’s lives, too, when it comes to custody arrangements. One of the less well-known strategies is called “nesting,” and it works like this: instead of sending the children from one house to another, the kids remain in the residence, and the parents take turns staying in that house. At first glance, it does not seem like a terrible idea – after all, the kids don’t lose their rooms or feel like they need to make new friends, and neither parent has to feel as if he or she lost the family home. But is it really a good idea?
In truth, no – it’s really not. Nesting might seem like a good alternative for your kids, but it creates a lot more problems than it solves. I try to support my clients’ ideas – even when they are a bit outside of the box – when it comes to protecting their children, but there are a lot of reasons why nesting is not your best option:
- It can get pretty expensive. Let’s say your agreement gives you four days and three nights with your kids. Where are you going to go the other four nights? You and your ex will still need separate homes or apartments of your own, which means you find yourself spending the same amount of money on another residence, but you only get to live there for half the time. On top of it all, you may still have to pay the mortgage on the family home, plus the homeowner’s insurance.
- The bills and utilities can be a nightmare. Aside from paying for twice the amount of utilities than you would if you had your own place, you and your former spouse now have to work out a payment schedule for those bills and utilities. Chances are, financial stress played a role in why you and your spouse decided to end your marriage (trying Googling “money and divorce” and see how many articles pop up); creating an atmosphere where you might continue to argue about money is detrimental to everyone.
- You lose all semblance of privacy. If you both share the home equally, then it is to be expected that you will both keep your things in the home, which can invite snooping. More importantly, you cannot hope to move forward with your lives in a healthy manner if you feel as though all of your actions are being scrutinized. Imagine the consequences if one of you decided to start dating again, or even if one of you wishes to host a get-together of friends or family – especially people who clearly “took sides” – and the other person comes home to pick something up, or discovers that he or she was being “badmouthed” in the house. One couple in NJ actually ended back in court over domestic violence allegations over who was using the marital mattress.
- You will absolutely confuse your children. If your kids are still too young to understand why Mommy and Daddy no longer live together (or even if they are not), sharing the family home is not going to help them understand it any more quickly. In fact, it could lead them to believe that you plan on getting back together, and that the divorce isn’t real.
I applaud parents who want to protect their kids, and as a father myself I really do understand the desire to move Heaven and Earth to make life easier for them. Nesting, however, is not the answer. As hard as it will be for them initially, each parent having his or her own space will make their lives – and yours – better and healthier in the end.
My name is Kevin W. Shepherd, and I am a family law and divorce attorney in Maryville. If you are considering a divorce, or if you need guidance when it comes to parenting plans, please contact my office to schedule a consultation. Let me help you plan for a better future.