Nesting has some pitfalls

The Pitfalls of Nesting and How to Avoid Them

While nesting as a strategy isn’t a new concept, more parents than ever are opting for it in the hopes of mitigating the negative effects of their divorce on their children. Nesting can certainly be difficult for the adults, and divorce attorneys generally advise a written nesting agreement as a powerful tool through which the most common nesting pitfalls can be avoided. Even with an agreement, issues will likely occur, and it’s imperative to deal with them the right way in order to preserve the arrangement and avoid having it unravel.

What Is Nesting?

Birdnesting—often shortened to just “nesting”—is a type of shared custody plan. Mental health professionals who specialize in divorce are now acutely aware of how divorces affect children and how that negative impact manifests. Children of divorce perform worse in school and experience social anxiety and other mental health disorders at a much higher rate.

Much of what children experience is due to the sheer amount of change and the stress that comes along with that. Nesting mitigates some of that stress by keeping the children in the family home and minimizing the change in their lives. In order to share custody, the parents take turns living in the home and being there for the children.

What Are the Advantages of Nesting?

Family lawyers and therapists agree that nesting helps maintain normalcy for the children and allows for a very smooth transition to a post-divorce family. While statistical gathering with regard to nesting is still in its relative infancy, experts agree that this approach gives children a high level of emotional stability and demonstrates collaboration between the parents that makes the children feel peaceful and safe.

What Are the Downsides to Nesting?

As for the children, there is still some question about the long-term viability of nesting. Many experts agree that nesting should be short-term, but the definition of short-term depends on who you ask. Dr. Ann Gold Buscho, who penned one of the most notable books on the topic, nested with her ex-husband and children for 18 months. It’s important to speak with a family counselor and determine a period that feels right for your family and also implement a strategy for moving on from nesting to the next phase.

Divorce lawyers warn that what is often overlooked in the children-centric discussion on nesting is just how difficult the process can be on the parents. Experts advise that there are four core challenges that a couple may face and need to deal with in order to preserve the nesting arrangement. These are:

  • Fighting
  • Not sharing information
  • Removing items from the home
  • New relationships

The Written Nesting Agreement

Divorce attorneys typically advise against entering a nesting arrangement without a formal, written nesting plan. Such an agreement helps to avoid presumptions by forcing the couple to have difficult discussions, negotiate and come to a settlement. Many of the issues that crop up when birdnesting have to do with differences in parenting, and most of those are avoidable by recognizing those conflicts up front and dealing with them.

Challenge #1: Fighting

In a relationship where the ex-spouses are prone to conflict, this kind of shared custody plan can exacerbate the underlying issues and put the parents in positions where clashes are more likely. Parental conflict is a leading cause of damage to children of divorce, and it’s imperative to shield children from unhealthy behaviors, such criticizing one another and sniping at each other.

How to Manage Fighting

Co-parenting counseling can be particularly helpful when it comes to contention. It provides a safe place for the couple to have disagreements and come to resolutions in a healthy matter with the help of the mediating counselor. If counseling isn’t an option for whatever reason or the fighting persists, you may want to integrate parallel parenting techniques into your nesting arrangement.

Challenge #2: Not Sharing Information

One of the core challenges of many co-parenting approaches is ensuring that each parent has all of the relevant information needed, and family law attorneys warn against withholding parenting information in order to avoid contact or cooperation. A lack of communication will undermine the nesting arrangement and may even have a negative impact on the children in terms of medical care, schooling, social activities and so forth.

How to Manage Not Sharing Information

Your agreement should indicate how and when you will exchange information whether that is through a co-parenting journal or a weekly sit-down. The nesting plan should cover everything, which is something your family lawyer can assist with. That includes diet, bedtime, hygiene, school activities and other important matters. If the problem persists and counseling isn’t an option, then it’s time to speak with your lawyer and to consider that nesting may not be a viable option for your family.

Challenge #3: Removing Items From the Home

Another challenge of a nesting arrangement from the perspective of the parents is having to maintain the family home. Each parent will be living in different homes and will need to stretch their belongings across those spaces. There may be personal property that one parent wants to take with them. You may also experience issues with snooping and the removal of documents needed for the divorce proceedings.

How to Manage Removing Items From the Home

Experts recommend that everything remains in the home until you’ve reached formal agreements concerning personal property. If you do not already have personal spaces in the home, you should create them. Each space is for that parent alone and is not to be violated by the other parent. You should also password-protect computers, accounts and any other resources that may expose sensitive information.

Challenge #4: New Relationships

New relationships are another reason that divorce lawyers recommend written co-parenting agreements so strongly. If one of the ex-spouses begins dating soon after the divorce and brings that new person into the family home, the other parent is likely to feel violated, and it may confuse the children as well.

How to Manage New Relationships

Most divorce therapists agree that you should wait nine to 12 months after your divorce has been finalized before dating. Nesting experts recommend agreeing that neither ex-spouse brings a new love interest into the family home. If after a year both parents want to continue with the nesting arrangement, then you can come to a new agreement on how to deal with dating and add it to your revised written agreement.

Protect Your Children With a Nesting Plan

If you are getting divorced and are interested in bird’s nest custody in order to make this process easier on your children, Lawrence Law would like to help. Our law firm has handled many different types of divorce cases, including amicable ones involving mediation and co-parenting agreements as well as those that are more contentious. Meet with one of our family law attorneys who can answer your questions and explore your options with you, and you can schedule that appointment at either our Red Bank or Watchung office by calling us at 908-645-1000 or by contacting us online.

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