The pros and cons of 'nesting' – a modern approach to post-separation
When it comes to human behaviour, the term ‘nesting’ has traditionally referred to the concept of an expectant mother preparing the home for her new arrival. However, the last decade or so has seen a rise in people following in the practice of our feathered friends. In family law, ‘nesting’ is now used to describe the situation where a couple who have separated take it in turns to reside in the family home, living elsewhere the remainder of the time. This modern way of living post-separation is proving particularly popular in Western countries and family lawyers in Scotland are becoming increasingly aware of the new trend.
Advantages of ‘nesting’
Perhaps the most obvious advantage of ‘nesting’ is the lack of disruption to the children. By adopting this child-focused way of living, children are not required to undergo any significant change in terms of their residence. They get to stay in the family home and don’t have to move schools, whilst being able to have both parents living with them there, albeit at different times. This can be a hugely attractive prospect for parents seeking to ensure continuity and stability for their children. ‘Nesting’ also means that children are not required to live between two different homes which, even if one of those properties is the familiar family home, can be a big ask, especially for younger children.
There is also a financial implication, particularly for larger families. If a couple has, for example, four children together, given the issues with high mortgage rates, it may not be economically viable to fund two properties large enough to accommodate the children and each respective parent. Similarly, one or both parents may face the prospect of having to downsize on a considerable level with consequential effects for the children, such as having to share bedrooms, etc. If the required changes are considered too costly, parents may decide it is simply easier and more cost-effective to ‘nest’.
Additionally, separated couples may find that communication in relation to child matters is easier and more practical if they choose to ‘nest’. Since they are ultimately still sharing the same space (to a degree at least), there is increased opportunity to pass on important information regarding the children, which may facilitate a more efficient approach to planning and organisation.
Drawbacks of ‘nesting’
There are, however, some potential disadvantages to ‘nesting’ which should be considered prior to embarking upon such a set-up. Leaving things too open-ended and lacking in finality can be difficult not only for the parents, but for children alike. Some families may not respond well to the lack of closure that accompanies ‘nesting’, feeling that they cannot truly settle into the arrangement. One could question whether this type of situation allows anyone to truly move on from the separation and whether it is, perhaps, simply delaying the inevitable impact of serious change.
Additionally, the extended time away from one of the parents could have a negative impact on children. A ‘week about’ arrangement could be difficult for children to handle, having their lives effectively split into two. It also requires a lot of flexibility from both parents which may not be practical due to other commitments, such as employment.
Furthermore, ‘nesting’ may cause an amicable relationship between parties post-separation to become fraught with difficulties. Resentment and hostility may arise as a result of the arrangement, despite the best of intentions, and this can have a knock-on effect for any children involved. Parents may struggle to continue sharing a space with their ex-partner in terms of the impact this may have on their privacy. Complications could also arise if one party was to enter into a new relationship, which may put a strain on the effectiveness of the ‘nesting’ arrangement. Due to some of these issues, ‘nesting’ tends to be an arrangement that is put in place over the short-term, rather than an extended period of time.
Things to consider before ‘nesting’:
- Is it what both parents genuinely feel is right for the children?
- Is it an arrangement that both parents can commit to emotionally, practically and financially?
- Have they considered how they will approach the situation should one of them either want to change the specifics of the arrangement, or alternatively, want to put an end to it altogether?
‘Nesting’ offers an alternative way of living post-separation for parents who have maintained a reasonably amicable relationship with each other. It is certainly not for everyone and is unlikely to remain effective on an indefinite basis. There are, of course, other options which may be more appropriate, depending on the particular circumstances involved. If you have recently separated, or are considering separation, our family team can guide you through the process and assist you in making the right decision for both you and your children.
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