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"Nesting" - A creative approach to coparenting after divorce

Gone are the days when divorce meant the kids would spend all week with Mom and only see Dad on the occasional weekend. Today, families are free to pursue more flexible arrangements that reflect their unique needs - and promote strong relationships with both parents.

"Nesting" is one such approach that's been growing in popularity. It involves keeping the kids in the same family home or "nest" while the parents rotate in and out. For example, Mom might live in the home with the kids for one week, and Dad the next. Both parents maintain their own separate living situations during off-weeks.

Weighing whether this approach would work for you

Nesting has several obvious advantages. It puts your children's needs first, providing stability and consistency. It takes much of the sting out of divorce for them. It means they won't have to face abrupt changes such as switching schools or moving homes. Their day-to-day routines can stay largely the same.

Logistically, it simplifies things. The kids won't have to continually move back and forth. You and your ex won't have to maintain a second set of bedrooms, toys, clothes and the like.

The nesting approach also makes it easier for parents to share time roughly equally. Changing shifts midweek, for example, wouldn't have the same disruptive effect on the kids as it would if they had to physically move.

However, nesting isn't for everyone. Obviously, both parents must live nearby; it won't work if one parent is moving across the country. Both of you must be committed to making the arrangement work. It's not a good choice for situations involving substance addiction or domestic violence. Additionally, if you and your ex have a history of intense conflict, it may not be the best solution for your family.

Understanding the challenges

It's important to be aware that nesting comes with challenges, too. Sharing a space with your ex requires a greater degree of involvement and cooperation than remaining completely separate. It also involves shared responsibilities in terms of finances and housekeeping - issues that may have already been big sources of disagreement during your marriage.

Nesting can also cause problems when it comes to romantic relationships. What's more, the arrangement may implicitly give your kids the hope that you'll be getting back together.

Making it manageable

If you decide to pursue nesting - whether on a temporary basis or for the long-term - it's important to set yourselves up for success. This means:

  • Committing to working through difficulties
  • Keeping clear lines of communication
  • Respecting each other's privacy
  • Making a detailed plan that outlines not only the schedule, but also who's responsible for what
  • Agreeing in advance how to handle romantic partners (including whether they're allowed to stay in the shared home)

Under the right circumstances, nesting can be a near-ideal arrangement for all involved. Just make sure you think it through beforehand and carefully weigh whether it's doable for you.

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