For many splitting spouses, the top priority during a divorce is the wellbeing of their children. Courts, too, must make decisions in accordance with the children’s best interests. In terms of child custody, one common choice for courts and families in recent decades has been split custody between joint managing conservators. In such custody arrangements, both parents exercise some rights to decision-making about the children’s upbringing and the children split their time between parents according to a predetermined custody schedule, such as a 50/50 split.
Despite the benefits of this approach (consistency and predictability), some families feel that traditional split custody plans can nonetheless be a jarring experience for their children. This is understandable. The divorce process can create many questions for children. Add in the difficulties of switching between parents every few days and the desire for an alternative emerges.
As a result, some families have turned to alternatives to the traditional approach to custody; alternatives that avoid or reduce some of the drawbacks of traditional custody plans. One such alternative is “nesting.” Unlike a traditional custody plan, in which children are transferred between the parents, nesting co-parenting plans entail the children continually residing in a single dwelling (usually the marital residence), while the parents rotate in and out according to a predetermined schedule. Please continue reading below for a quick rundown of a few of the pros and cons of nesting.
What Are the Benefits of Nesting?
The overriding benefit of nesting is the significantly increased level of stability for the children. The difficulties that divorces pose for spouses are often compounded for children. And while many parents are able to view divorce as an “adjustment” or a “new path forward,” many children have difficulty understanding the realities and consequences of divorce. Nesting provides an avenue for parents who wish to soften the blow of a divorce on their children’s family life. Children who live in a nesting environment may be better able to maintain their social lives (including existing friendships, school attendance, and extracurricular activities) without interruption. This provides kids with an opportunity to adjust to their new family life with fewer distractions.
Nesting can also reduce many of the other stressors that accompany the divorce process. Many parents relay that when their children’s needs are addressed, the other aspects of divorce are significantly less taxing. In this way, nesting can help those parents who seek the least stressful divorce process possible.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Nesting?
Of course, the benefits of nesting do not come without their own costs, financial and otherwise. Before opting for a nesting plan, it is important to consider a few important factors.
First: costs. In addition to maintaining the current marital residence, nesting requires parents to acquire additional housing. It is easy to see that if both parents obtain modest apartments, the overall costs of three separate residences can quickly reach cost-prohibitive levels. Even wealthy families have found nesting to be a difficult choice if both spouses wish to maintain their current standard of living.
Second: high level of cooperation between spouses. Like any co-parenting plan, both parents must be on the same page for the plan to work. But unlike traditional co-parenting schemes, nesting requires an especially high degree of coordination. While separating spouses generally share an objective in their divorce (such as the best outcome for their children), they may have different opinions on how to achieve that goal. Indeed, even couples who begin on the same page may quickly find their paths diverging when confronted with the multitude of issues that inevitably arise during the divorce process. The level of cooperation necessary for successful nesting plans requires a degree of selflessness that many spouses have difficulty maintaining for the duration of the divorce.
Finally: timespan. The previous two concerns, and other practical considerations, generally mean that nesting is only a temporary solution. Children need stability, but so do parents—and long-term parental stability can be difficult to achieve when both parents maintain multiple residences. For this reason, most couples who execute successful nesting plans do so with an agreed-upon expiration date (generally, the finalization of the divorce). This temporary duration provides two key benefits. First, it gives children time to adjust to their parents’ new (separate) roles. Second, it gives parents a breathing room to resolve important issues, such as their permanent >post-marital residences and new financial considerations for their separate lives.
Whether your children would be best served by a traditional custody plan or a nesting co-parenting plan, the lawyers at Kirker│Davis LLP are ready to help. If you have questions about the best path forward for your children, please contact Kirker│Davis LLP to discuss your custody options with an attorney today.