November 22, 2011

Parenting time: Is sharing the “nest” the best?

Divorce can prompt parents to consider a variety of options when it comes to caring for their children. As divorce attorneys, we regularly see parents weigh the pros and cons of different parenting time arrangements in order to find the option that is the least disruptive for their children. In an effort to create a stable home environment for children, some parents are turning to an alternative approach that may raise a few eyebrows: Nesting. Instead of requiring the children to shuttle back and forth between two residences in order to spend time with each parent, nesting allows the children to remain put while the parents move in and out of the house in accordance with their parenting times. At the end of the parenting time, one parent will leave the residence to make room for the other parent. Stability is a clear advantage of nesting. Because they always remain in the same house, the children sleep in the same bed every night. They have the same walk home from school each day. They play with the same neighborhood children each weekend. Nesting allows the children to stick to a comfortable and familiar schedule, eliminating the need for the children to lug suitcases back and forth between two houses. While nesting may be the best option for some parents and their children, the drawbacks can make nesting off limits for others. Nesting would require the parents to maintain three total residences—the main “nest” house, plus the houses each parent retires to at the end of his or her parenting time. The additional housing costs could make nesting impossible for many. Alternately, nesting parents could maintain only two residences by sharing the same house away from parenting time in the same manner as they share the “nest” house. However, some parents may have a difficult time sharing all their space with a former spouse or partner. Remarried parents might not want to drag their new spouse between two houses as well, especially if the new spouse also has children. Along the same line, your new wife may not want to sleep in the same room where your ex-wife sleeps with her new husband. And sharing living spaces can lead to some age-old roommate squabbles, like whose turn is it to buy toilet paper. Nesting will likely never be the option the majority of divorcing parents choose, but it does work for some people. As with any parenting time arrangement, it is important for both parents to consider all options carefully.