Most parents understand that even under the best of circumstances, divorce can be traumatic for children. Research shows high-conflict divorce especially can have long-term, adverse consequences for kids, impacting their mental health, adjustment, success in school, self-esteem and future relationships. One approach to mitigating that impact that’s gained traction in recent years is called “nesting.”
As our Freehold divorce attorneys can explain, nesting divorce is when the children remain in the family home while the parents alternate one-at-a-time between there and another residence. This contrasts with the traditional child custody arrangement, wherein it is the kids who move back and forth between the parents’ separate households. The idea is that kids get to keep the same room, the same toys, the same home environment while it’s the parents who bear the brunt of adjusting to different living arrangements.
It’s better for everyone of course when parents recognize that no matter how they feel about each other, they must work amicably together for their children’s sake. The nesting arrangement can work very well for some families. However, it’s not for everyone and it’s important to point out there may be some legal implications, both during and after.
The primary consideration, of course, is the cost of maintaining three separate households – the one parents share with the children and then another for each of them. Costs may be offset by each parent renting small, inexpensive apartments or just keeping one apartment in rotation while the other parent is residing in the family home.
Be careful too about the potential for conflict that could arise from division of labor and costs in a shared family residence, particularly if division of household responsibilities was a major problem during the marriage. Fights about who pays for groceries or repairs, who is responsible for cleaning up messes and invasion of personal space (especially if parents start dating again) can turn the family home into a battleground, with children caught in the middle – which is the exact opposite of what a nesting divorce is supposed to achieve.
Be mindful too that this arrangement could have some legal consequences. It might potentially impact the way the court decides issues of property division, spousal support (alimony) and child support. It could also affect your taxes. It’s imperative that before you and your spouse agree to keep the “nest” for your kids that you discuss it with a New Jersey divorce lawyer who can advise you of the potential implications.
If these can be overcome, nesting can be a good strategy for easing into the transition of divorce, at least in the short-term. It may serve as a bridge to help everyone adjust to the new family structure. But trust, communication and good faith is key.
When Nesting Divorce Probably Isn’t a Good Idea
Nesting divorces should probably be avoided by former couples whose interactions are high-conflict, terse or abusive. Open communication is important to making it work, and if that can’t be managed, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to peacefully run a single household together.
In most cases, nesting is a voluntary decision, though a judge will need to finalize any parenting time and child support agreements if they are to be enforceable.
Nesting should not be used as a way to avoid the natural process of grieving that children are inevitably going to experience when their parents split up. That’s something they’ll need to confront sooner or later, with the help of a counselor or therapist if necessary.
Alternatives to Nesting Divorce
If you and your spouse are committed to working together to make the transition as smooth as possible for your kids but know that nesting probably isn’t an option, there are alternatives. Some include:
- Choosing a divorce process that will keep you out of court. These include collaborative divorce and mediation. The more you can communicate and cooperate on the terms of your separation, the more control you have and often the more satisfied everyone is with the outcome. It’s also good practice for a future of co-parenting.
- Opting for email if possible if direct communication is too tense. People can often better control their tone and get right to the point in an email. Plus, if the conversation doesn’t veer into an argument, at least the children aren’t going to witness/overhear it.
- Agreeing on ways to settle future disagreements before they snowball into a serious conflict. Children are often much more resilient than we give them credit for. Staying in an unhappy marriage can often be damaging as well. But watching their parents learn to work through disputes together can serve as an important lifelong lesson for them.
Discuss your options with a dedicated New Jersey divorce lawyer today.
Contact us at (732) 810-0034 or email us through our website.