Q: My husband and I have been drifting apart or years. We’ve come close to divorce so many times, but we have three young kids. I can’t imagine sending them back and forth between houses for the remainder of their childhoods. We’re the ones who can’t make it work. Why should they carry the burden that divorce causes? I’ve read about “nesting” (where the children remain in the family home and the parents move in and out weekly) while doing research online. I think it’s a
great idea and my husband seems open to it as well. Unfortunately, our families and closest friends seem to universally agree “It will never work.” I feel they’re throwing cold water on an innovative idea. Am I being naïve?
A: As 50/50 custody arrangements become more common in Maryland family courts, “nesting” has gained popularity as is an arrangement where the children stay in the family home and the parents switch back and forth. Typically, the parents will rent an apartment close by to use on their “off” weeks. Or they stay with family or friends when they are not with the kids. Some will each get a place, but most folks find this option cost prohibitive.
There are advantages and disadvantages to a nesting arrangement. The primary advantage is obvious, the kids stay in their home, near their friends, and all their belongings without the packing and unpacking and without the “Oh I forgot my soccer cleats at dad’s
house!” There is no need to get a second Xbox, or a second dog. It sounds appealing in so many ways. It’s no wonder more separating families are giving this option a serious second and third look.
That said, the cold water your supporters are throwing is grounded in a cold reality. Most people simply can’t make these arrangements work long-term. Hurt and heartbroken adults tend to need more space from one another (and each other’s stuff) to heal as a marriage comes to an end. Jealousy, anger, pettiness and paranoia have a way of ruining an otherwise good thing.
Here are some issues to consider. What happens if one parent is buying all of the groceries every week that the other eats in their absence? Or if the other leaves the house a mess for you to clean up or live with? What happens when you find evidence of your ex going through your things? Or they leave behind a new boyfriend or girlfriend’s personal item in the medicine cabinet? If as you read this you hear yourself thinking, “yeah I could see that happening.” This may not be for you. The silver lining of divorce is that if there is tension, creating two households is supposed to reduce that for the kids. On the other hand, if you’re thinking, “No we’re above those sorts of issues” and you still want to give it a shot; write a “contract” with a concrete set of terms beforehand. Remember that even if it is not sustainable, whatever time you two were able to make it work may be worth it as a gift of love to your children.