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Breaking Down The Concept of Nesting

The family practice attorneys at Protokowicz & Rodier explain the concept of nesting and offer suggestions on how to determine whether it would be in a family’s best interests to implement it.

Mother Helping Young Son As He Learns To Walk

Divorce is challenging and uncomfortable for every member of a family. Often, children can be impacted negatively by the changes in their daily lives when parents divide into two households. As a result, alternative custody arrangements that place a child’s well-being above all else have become more prevalent in recent years. Among alternative custody options is nesting, which stresses the importance of the stability of a child’s home environment.

Nesting takes its core principles from trends observed in ornithology – the scientific study of birds. The arrangement was developed to help maintain a stable environment for children whose parents are in the process of divorcing. An inversion of the model that involves shuttling a child back and forth between houses, nesting assigns a child one home, and requires parents to take turns living there. A stable home environment is therefore preserved for the child, while the parents adjust their parenting responsibilities based on the agreed-upon live-in schedule.

Proponents of this co-parenting method feel that the upheaval children of divorcing parents experience while splitting their time between homes causes unnecessary stress and inconsistency.  They advocate for this arrangement to give children the consistency and stability they need. Nesting is a challenging but beneficial arrangement that puts the best interests of the child first.

Nesting only works if both parents share custody, rather than one parent having sole or primary custody of the child. When the parents of the child are not living in the family home, they may elect either to have their own living space, or share a space with the other parent which they take turns occupying.

Most often, if parents choose this strategy, an arrangement is made through communications outside of court. Generally, the arrangement is temporary, lasting only the length of divorce proceedings, or until the family home has been sold and each parent has secured new permanent living arrangements. In rare cases, this custody method has been court ordered by a judge. In general, however, nesting is considered more challenging than traditional custody strategies in that it requires parents to maintain financial ties and a peaceful and communicative relationship.

The benefits of nesting come with potential financial and emotional costs.  Divorcing parents must both be financially able to maintain two households at once. They must also be comfortable with regularly discussing family schedules and guidelines with one another. Because of the anguish and upset some couples associate with divorce, some may feel that this level of open communication is not sustainable, or may prove unhealthy for their child. Divorcing parents who wish to cut all ties with one another may thus find this method to be an emotional burden too substantial to bear.

If you are contemplating implementing nesting, consider the following:

  • Learn all you can. Look for parenting articles, blogs and even scholarly studies on the effectiveness of nesting. Have any of your friends or acquaintances used this method of co-parenting? The more you know, the more informed your decision will be. Consult with your family law attorney and ask if they have advice on the subject.
  • Do the math. Are you financially able to sustain the cost of two separate living spaces in addition to your regular expenses and childcare costs? If your finances will not allow for this extra spend, this arrangement is not for you.
  • Plan for everything. Create a calendar, a list of rules and policies, and determine which spaces in the family house each parent has access to. The more details you include, the more each of you will be able to respect each other’s guidelines and parent effectively.

If you are going through a divorce or have questions about divorce and child custody arrangements, contact the family practice attorneys at Protokowicz & Rodier today.