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The Benefits and Drawbacks of “Nesting” Divorce

By Debra Schoenberg

Separation and divorce are a painful process that disrupts many families. When parents decide to separate, there are several reasons why they may consider a model of separation called “nesting”.

No matter how you spin it, getting divorced is tough — especially if you have kids. Even if the decision to part ways is the best (or only) one, the resulting separation can be traumatizing for children. Research shows that the best way to avoid risking the well-being of kids going through this challenging process is to keep it as low-conflict and amicable as possible.

Nesting, also known as “bird nesting,” is a transitional or temporary arrangement where the children of divorced parents stay in the family home while the parents rotate in and out of the home with an on-and-off duty agreement based on a prearranged schedule. Each parent obtains a place to stay that is outside the family home and the parents create a rotating schedule by which each parent has some time each week in the family home with the children while the other parent spends their days in an alternative home.

With nesting comes numerous benefits to the children that are going through the process of divorce. Nesting can help ease the idea of sudden separation by allowing the children to adjust to the idea that their parents are separating before they experience the disruption of shuttling between two homes.

Nesting provides some stability for the children while they adjust to their parents’ separation and divorce.  Their routines may not change much. The children have quality time with each parent. Some nesting parents call themselves “apartners” as they live apart while they partner as parents. Nesting gives parents time to sort out the other divorce-related issues before making big decisions and changes about housing.  If nesting is during a trial separation, and the parents are both actively working on the marriage, some parents may be able to reconcile.

Although nesting is a good idea for some families during the separation process, for other families it simply doesn’t work well. In the process of divorce and the transition into nesting, cooperation and communication play a crucially significant factor in the way both parents can work problems out and come to terms with the situation, and for some, that may be difficult, especially if communication was not there from the beginning.

The United States has the 6th highest divorce rate in the world. When ending a relationship, the transition to a separation generally comes with challenging issues. However, nesting for many is a comfortable approach to the initial phase of adjustment and adaptation during the divorce process. By encouraging conversation with your spouse, you can support your children as they embark on the initial difficulties that come with life changes that impact the entire family.