What Is “Nesting” And Would It Work For Your Family?


For years, the research has told us that divorce can have a negative impact on childrens’ mental health. We know that, for some children, it can cause an increase in anxiety and depression, lower self-esteem, and challenges in future relationships.

However, the same is true for marriages that simply stay together for the sake of the children, when they risk becoming witnesses to high amounts of conflict. 

As a result, many recently separated parents are turning to a growing trend in co-parenting: nesting. 

What Is Nesting?

Nesting is a type of shared custody arrangement where the children live full-time in the primary residence, and the parents split time moving in and out of the home. The concept of “nesting” takes its name from “birdnesting”, as bird parents swap turns in the same nest with their chicks tucked safely inside.

When the parent is on-duty, they live with the children in the residence and resume the parenting responsibilities. When off-duty, they stay at a separate residence, such as a relative’s home, an apartment or second home shared with the former spouse, or their own property. 

Most often, this arrangement is for a specific amount of time. Sometimes it is used as a transition tool during separation, or until a certain milestone like a child’s high school graduation.

The Benefits of Nesting

The primary benefit to this arrangement is it provides more stability for the children. Nesting is a choice to prioritize minimal disruption to the childrens’ routine and current way of life. They remain in their current schools and neighborhood, and do not have to split time or belongings between two homes.

An added benefit is that maintaining the family home eases the pressure that comes following divorce or separation. Parents take the time to focus on how the new custody arrangement will work and what it is like to parent without the former spouse before needing to worry about the financial division of property

Some of Nesting’s Disadvantages

While nesting releases some of the burden of divorce from the children, it can add some difficulty for the parents. With a divorce or separation, there are high levels of emotion, and moving in and out of the same home as a former spouse can be draining for some. For this reason, nesting is not a good fit for relationships that ended with a lot of resentment or trauma, or ones in which communication skills are not productive.

Some co-parents who have decided to try nesting feel at times they are being held back, as their living arrangement and schedule is still very much dependent on that of their former spouse. Entering a new relationship becomes more complicated, and there are still matters of home maintenance to discuss regularly. 

Tips for Successful Nesting

If nesting seems like a desirable shared custody arrangement for your family, the key is to put together a detailed plan with your former spouse, and put the plan in writing. Your plan should include:

  • the way in which you and your former spouse will communicate
  • the schedule as far as when each parent is on-duty
  • household responsibilities
  • financial arrangements such as shared expenses of the house
  • how new relationships and dating will work and the expectations of each party
  • general rules of the primary residence

Some parents who decide to make a nesting plan create legal agreements.

Nesting can be a beneficial option for some families who are skilled in communication, are on amicable terms, and believe keeping the children in the marital home will create the most stable atmosphere. However, this arrangement does not work for everyone. 
If you are considering nesting as an option for your shared custody arrangement, contact your local family law attorney in South Carolina for counsel and guidance.

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