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Alternative Custody Arrangements: Nesting

‘Nesting’ or ‘Bird’s-Nest Parenting’ is an unusual custody arrangement that is uniquely focused on the good of the children, and involves some extraordinary sacrifice on the part of the separated parents. In short, the children stay in one home, and the parents move in and out when their custody schedule dictates a shift in parenting time.

A nesting arrangement is considered excellent for the children, because it minimizes the disruption to their lives. They can still stick to the same schedule, go to the same school, hang out with the same friends, and so on — they are minus one parent, but the rest of their life goes on with a minimum of fuss.

Setting Up a Nesting Arrangement
In order to set up a nesting arrangement, you need a few things.

  • An ex who is amenable to the idea, and who has a good post-divorce relationship with you.
  • A financial situation that is strong enough to support three residences or an incredible relationship with your ex (such that the two of you feel comfortable rotating back and forth between the same two residences, sharing bills and chores and so on.)
  • A judge who believes that the arrangement is in the best interest of your children.

The Difficulties of Nesting
There are three primary difficulties with nesting:

  • Money: Even if you do manage to set up a dual-residence arrangement with your ex and then set up both houses so that you can occupy each without accidentally intruding on the other’s belongings and plans, nesting is still more expensive than a traditional custody arrangement simply because both houses will generally require separate bedrooms for each parent. A typical three-domicile arrangement, needless to  say, is massively more expensive than a standard ‘move the kids back and forth’ arrangement.
  • New Relationships: Why three bedrooms? Because when your ex brings a hot date home to the shared house and they stick around long enough to make breakfast…well, you’re probably not going to want to sleep in that bed, washed sheets or no. That’s not even getting into the awkwardness of explaining to your next hot date that sorry, this week your address is different and oh, there’s kids there and oh, they’re your kids.
  • Old Relationships: Time-sharing a home with someone brings with it 100% of the difficulties of actually sharing a home with someone, but it makes them worse. There’s nothing that encourages insane passive-aggression quite like seeing what someone you used to love has done with (the laundry/the fridge/the garage/the décor) and knowing that leaving them a nasty note is a “good” way to show your displeasure without getting the kids involved. No matter how great your relationship was when you set up the nesting arrangement, prepare for it to get very rocky.

In the end, nesting is best used as a short-term arrangement with a specific end-date that both parties contractually agree to. That way, it can be used to ‘buy time’ to let the kids transfer more effectively, to let the parents adapt to their new homes and lives, and to reach some good ‘change point’ like the end of a school year. As a permanent custody arrangement, there are simply too many complications to see it last

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