Is Nesting (Continuing to Share Residence After Divorce) a Good Idea?

Unless you are a multimillionaire with unlimited resources, you will feel the financial effects of dividing your funds and assets after divorce. Whether you are a one or two income family, you are no longer sharing expenses. You must now each support your own individual household.  Times can be tough these days and some couples consider continuing to share a residence.

Some couples also consider sharing a residence for the children’s sake. The most frequently cited concern that divorcing couples have is that their children’s well-being. Is this a good idea?

The most positive article I’ve seen on the subject entitled, “Apartners”: The New Happy Divorce, was recently published by Redbook.  Nesting is the term used for when “exes share or rotate through a single home that their children stay in full-time.”

“Nesting is obviously not an option for everyone; it could prove disastrous in a split that involves violence, for example. But it’s one of the many new ways that exes with children are becoming better and happier “apartners.” Exes who are not only amicable but loving are part of a divorce revolution, along with mediation and collaborative divorce (in which both parties hire lawyers but agree to keep it out of court).”  Obviously it takes a special kind of effort for divorcing couples to overcome the very same conflict or communication issues in order to make this arrangement work smoothly for everyone concerned.  “[W]hen divorcing couples have the right kind of support, they can put their kids at the center of all this–without putting them in the middle.”

There does seem to be a trend toward exes making an effort to be more respectful of each other, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  According to Mr. you must consider a host of potential conflicts or concerns prior to embarking on such an arrangement. Parents who didn’t agree before the divorce, aren’t going to agree after it.  For instance;

  • Differences in housekeeping, decorating, arrangement of furniture, dishes, etc.
  • Privacy concerns.  How do you trust someone from whom you’ve gotten divorced from damaging or stealing belongings?  Rooting through paperwork and files? [If trust is that low, this isn’t the arrangement for you.]
  • “Whose stuff is this anyway?”  What if she doesn’t like the recliner but he does?  What if he doesn’t like that painting, but he does?
  • Who pays the rent and how much?  [This issue could be addressed in the Separation Agreement.]
  • Where are the parents living when they’re not “nesting?”
  • Who buys the food?  What kind?  How much?
  • What if she likes the heat on 80-degrees and he likes it on 70-degrees?
  • Who does the house belong to?  Who gets what equity if a move is going to occur?  [This issue would be addressed in the Separation Agreement.]
  • If child support orders consider things like rent, power, heat, light – should there be a downward modification?  Should there be any support at all?

According to an article in, Nesting Will it Work For You, “[i]t is well recognized in the research community that the negative effects of divorce on children have been exaggerated in the past.   Conflict is the most critical determining factor in children’s adjustment post-divorce.  It is not the divorce itself, or the residential parenting arrangement that is the damaging instrument, rather the conflict that dominates pre-divorce, during the divorce process and for the months or years post-divorce.

The scientific literature indicates that children’s psychological reactions to their parent’s divorce are dependent on three main factors:  quality of the parent-child relationship pre-divorce, the intensity and duration of the parental conflict and thirdly, the parents’ ability to prioritize the needs of the children during the divorce process. Children learn at home how to resolve conflict and how to be in relationships with others.  The more conflict there is between the divorcing parents, the longer children hold on to the notion of their parents’ reconciliation is possible. Hence, healthy, constructive conflict resolution skills and processes such as collaborative divorce or mediation, benefit the divorcing parents and their children during and after the divorce.

The difficulties with the nesting arrangement vary greatly and depend on each family’s circumstance.  When prioritizing children’s needs in the context of parenting arrangements, the goal is conflict minimization.  After all, divorce is the exit strategy from home grown relationship conflict.  While considering the nesting options parents have the opportunity to analyze and reflect candidly at the sources of conflict in the marriage while planning for the future.  If more conflict is created with the nesting alternative, parents can rest assure that other co-parenting arrangements are available and are successfully being implemented every day.”

Nesting is an option to consider so long as you are putting the needs of your children above your own.  It’s certainly a positive for the divorcing parents, rather than their children, to experience living out of a suitcase.  You have to be completely honest about your ability to continue to amicably work with your ex on ‘roommate issues’.  Today successful nesting is the exception to the rule, but the amicability of divorcing couples is trending upward and successful nesting could certainly become a more common option in the future.