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Nesting is a new fad for parents seeking custody alternatives

Your divorce likely threw your family into the kinds of turmoil you never imagined. As gently as you tried to break it to the children, they each reacted differently as they processed the news and considered its implications.

Despite your differences, you and your ex-spouse continue to be parenting partners, and you want the best for your children. Perhaps the two of you are trying to come to custody arrangements on your own to minimize the impact on the children. One concept about which you may have heard is the idea of nesting.

The positive and negative sides of nesting

Nesting is the name given to a custody plan during which the parents, not the children, alternate time at home. The children remain in the family home while the parents move in and out. Everything remains steady for the kids -- their belongings, their schools, their routines -- but you and your spouse would take turns staying in the house according to a schedule.

In principle, the arrangement seems ideal, especially for children who, as many studies show, need as much time as possible with both parents. However, those who have attempted nesting say it has its share of drawbacks, including:

  • Effects on property division and spousal support orders in states where courts don't consider you separated if you live with your ex
  • Financial consequences in states where selling a home must occur within a certain time limit after the divorce to benefit from tax breaks
  • The outrageous expense of maintaining the family home in Utah, plus a separate home for each of the spouses
  • The confusion and disapproval of new love interests who can't understand why you still technically live with your ex-spouse
  • Lingering negative feelings between you and your spouse that may make it difficult to share the space

Of course, if you and your spouse struggled with territorial battles that caused resentment to build between you while you were still married, those battles may not go away just because you signed the papers. Some nesting couples report that one spouse left the house in disarray or neglected to do the grocery shopping. Others found they couldn't stand the thought of their ex-spouses invading their privacy. Sadly, the children often end up in the middle of these disputes.

Some psychotherapists feel the idea of nesting may be harmful to newly divorced couples. For example, remaining in close proximity with your ex may make it difficult for you to properly grieve the loss of your marriage, reach closure and move forward with a healthy life. While it may seem like a great solution for your children, they may also need to deal with the truth of the situation, and nesting may prevent them from doing so.  

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