How Can Nesting Help Children Cope With Divorce


How Can Nesting Help Children Cope With Divorce

As evidence mounts concerning the impact of divorce on children, many couples are looking at an alternative child arrangement known as 'nesting'. This article explains what nesting is and its advantages and disadvantages.

What is nesting in family law?

Nesting is where children remain in the family home post-divorce, and the parents take turns living in the property at agreed times. This differs from traditional child arrangements where the family home is sold, and both parents purchase a separate property where the children live at different times.

The term 'nesting' comes from the practice of bird nesting, where one bird remains with the chicks whilst the other flies off to seek food etc, with both birds taking turns remaining in the nest.

Is a nesting arrangement suitable for everyone?

Tolstoy's famous words from Anna Karenina - "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" ring as true today as they did in the 1870s. Every divorce is different. Some couples can remain friends and communicate well. Others struggle desperately to agree on anything and prefer to see as little of their ex-spouse as possible. In the case of the latter, nesting may not be the ideal solution as it requires a degree of trust, communication, and cooperation. However, that is not to say exploring a nesting arrangement should be ruled out (except in cases where there has been domestic abuse in the relationship, and it is not safe for your ex-spouse to know where you live). It may be that with the help of mediation, negotiation, and your Family Law Solicitor, you and your ex-spouse could make nesting work, especially if you both believe it is the best solution for your children.

What are the advantages of nesting?

The key advantage nesting provides to children is stability. A recent academic paper on the educational outcomes of children whose parents had divorced concluded:

"Children from divorced households may perform better academically depending on the stability both parents provide. Children may perform better in school if both parents maintain a stable home environment and encourage their children's academic endeavours."

Given that the family home is typically situated close to children's school and friends, being able to remain in the same location negates much of the disruptive change that can impact a child's mental health when their parents separate.

Nesting also provides considerable advantages for parents. Many divorced couples have to live in temporary accommodation until the financial settlement is completed. These properties (often apartments or shared housing) are often unsuitable for children to stay in. Nesting removes the stress of having to make a home for your children, as they already have everything familiar to them in the family property.

What are the disadvantages of nesting?

Taking turns at occupying the family home comes with challenges. Both parties must agree on matters such as the organisation of the home, housekeeping, who is responsible for food shopping and division of household bills.

Nesting is expensive as each parent has two residences to upkeep, their own house and the family home. This means two sets of utility bills, council tax, and maintenance.

Another critical factor to ponder is how comfortable you would feel if your ex-spouse had another partner staying with them in the 'nest'. It is considerations such as these that make being able to communicate openly so important if you and your ex-spouse wish to explore a nesting arrangement.

Can the Family Court set aside a nesting arrangement?

The Family Court will always be guided by the principle that any decisions regarding child arrangements must be in the best interests of the child in question.

In A (Children: Nesting Arrangement), Re, the Court of Appeal ruled that a judge making an interim Child Arrangement Order pending a final hearing had good reason to end the nesting arrangement. This was despite the fact the children were happy with the situation. The Judge stated:

"In my experience, nesting arrangements work well and can be of benefit to all when the parents are in accord. I also have experience of such arrangements when the parents continue to be in conflict and where the children remain exposed to the same. I am not aware of such arrangements, where parental conflict and discord remain, that remain in place or afford good outcomes for the children.

I am concerned that maintenance of the current arrangements will further harm the quality of the children's relationship with their mother. Any transition to new child arrangements will present challenges but, in my opinion, the difficulties associated with the transition will be less significant than the ongoing harm experienced by the children if there are no changes to the current arrangements."

Wrapping up

Nesting offers a child-focused approach to post-divorce co-parenting. However, although there are many benefits, such as stability for children and cooperative parenting, it also comes with financial and emotional challenges.

If you are considering nesting, you should speak to an experienced Family Law Solicitor who can advise you. The success of nesting arrangements relies on both parents being able to cooperate, communicate well, and put the well-being of their children first.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please call us on 0300 3732424.