Nesting has become a popular concept for families of divorce lately, with articles in the New York Times and other well known publications. Nesting, if you are not familiar with the term, is when divorcing parents arrange for the children to remain in the family home while they each obtain a separate place to live. In theory this enables the children to remain in their home where they grew up, as well as cuts down on the shuffling back and forth between the parents’ homes, which is typical of divorced families who have joint or shared custody.
Many couples who are going through the mediation process bring up the idea of nesting. I think nesting can work in situations where the parents want to do it for a finite period of time in a situation where it can truly benefit the kids, such as keeping a child in a school district until they graduate from school. Although the concept is gaining popularity, there are several downsides.
It’s expensive. The parents need to be financially capable of supporting three homes. These days, when many people are getting divorced partially because of money issues, it is even more unlikely that they will be able to support three homes when they may be having difficulty with one. Not only do the parents have to discuss and agree on the expenditures for maintenance of the three different homes, there may be sacrifices in other areas. For instance, money that is paying for the arrangement could go toward retirement or the kid’s college funds.
Then there are the logistics of shared expenses and responsibilities with the family home. The parents have to be able to finesse differences with housekeeping and grocery shopping. The parents also have to get along well enough to discuss on a daily basis the maintenance and repairs of the home where the children reside. For instance, maintenance and repairs can crop up unexpectedly. The parents have to agree not only on who pays, but who is truly taking care of the repair. Think about home ownership with an intact family and the associated stress of who is staying home for the plumber or electrician? Multiply that by several homes and you can see that it is not a simple undertaking.
Then there is the factor that life goes on. Perhaps one or both parents will get remarried. Will the new spouses be understanding about the level of involvement you have with your ex over the kid’s residence? What if the new spouses have kids of their own and all the kids want to spend time together? Maybe they want to be together when it’s not your week?
We had a couple in the office who were mediating their divorce and were considering nesting with a twist. They knew they didn’t have the financial ability to maintain three homes so they were going to try to make it work with two. They thought they would share an apartment with each other that they would only be in one at a time so that they could afford to keep the kids in the house. While we were discussing the logistics to be included in their memorandum of understanding, they realized that sharing an apartment together post-divorce would not work for them in that they would have way too much knowledge about each other’s separate lives and that could get uncomfortable quickly.
Nesting is something to explore and discuss even if only to help divorcing parents decide what their priorities are. Perhaps the children will feel more secure if they nest for the first few years. Perhaps they are more resilient and can handle the transitions between homes. Each family is different, and a mediator recognizes that and can help the couple determine for themselves what will ultimately work in their situation.
Deborah E. Kaminetzky, Esq.
Kaminetzky & Associates, P.C.
132 Spruce Street
Cedarhurst, New York 11516