Nesting: What is it and does it benefit children?

You may have come across the term 'nesting' or ‘birdnesting’ in the context of post-separation parenting and divorce. In this piece, we look at nesting, its benefits and disadvantages.

Nesting defined

Nesting is a co-parenting arrangement where the children remain in the family home and the mum and dad alternate living there.

In some cases, parents will jointly secure (whether by renting or buying) a second (usually smaller) property where each parent will stay while the other parent is staying with the children.  In other cases, each parent has separate alternative accommodation, possibly with family members or friends, if resources do not allow them to rent or buy.

Nesting aims to provide consistency and reduce upheaval for children during their parents' separation. By keeping the children in a familiar environment, nesting helps preserve a sense of routine and security.  

What are the benefits of nesting? 

Nesting enables the children to maintain a single, familiar home environment, rather than having to move between two different houses.   Particularly in the early stages of parents’ separation, staying in the same home can alleviate any anxiety and aid in adjusting to the changes in their family dynamic.  

Maintaining two-family homes following separation can be financially challenging, as it often involves duplicating expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and household supplies.  Nesting can ensure that children spend time with each parent in a home that is appropriate for their needs.

Where there are limited resources, nesting can be used as an interim solution until a family home is sold and the proceeds divided, when both parents can purchase or rent their own homes. 

Practical arrangements can also be easier for children in a nesting arrangement – there is no need for two sets of clothes, furniture and toys, for example. 

What are the disadvantages of Nesting? 

Despite its several benefits, nesting is not appropriate or beneficial for all families in all circumstances.  Nesting requires parents to maintain open communication, cooperation, and a willingness to set personal differences aside for the sake of creating a single harmonious home environment for the children.  It also requires mutual respect for the other’s personal space and privacy in the shared home.

Depending on the circumstances of the relationship breakdown, it might be too difficult or painful for parents to continue to share a home, even if they are not staying there at the same time, and any unhappiness or conflict that occurs, as a result, could impact the children.  

Even parents with a good co-parenting relationship might find that sharing responsibility for a home after separation can be difficult to coordinate, and petty annoyances over, for example, who stocks the fridge and cleans the bathroom, can create friction. 

In communicating with their children about a nesting arrangement, parents need to protect against the risk of confusion or mixed messages about their parent's relationship. Seeing their parents alternating living in the family home might create false hope for reconciliation or contribute to a sense of uncertainty.

While nesting might work well in the short term arrangement, it is usually not appropriate in a longer term living arrangement where children may benefit from making a home with each parent separately.

While it offers stability and continuity, it may also introduce confusion and require careful management from the parents. Tees family solicitors can help provide guidance on the legal aspects of nesting and help ensure the children's best interests are prioritised throughout the process.

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