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Looking for a child custody alternative? Try 'nesting'

Virginia parents who are divorcing may assume that the obvious, and indeed the only, choice they have is to establish two households, wherein the child will shuttle back and forth between, depending on which parent has custody or visitation at the time. That being said, parents getting a divorce also want to minimize the stress the situation causes their child. For this reason, some parents are adopting a rather unconventional child custody arrangement: nesting.

Through nesting, the spouses keep the family home (the proverbial nest), along with a separate apartment for each spouse. The child lives in the family home, and it is the parents who shuttle back and forth between the family home and their separate apartment depending on who has custody or visitation at the time. The hope is that by staying in a familiar environment, less stress will be placed on the child.

Of course, because it is unconventional, if parents wish to have a nesting child custody arrangement they must consider a number of factors. First, they must confirm that their state permits such an arrangement after divorce. This is because in some states, if parents choose nesting, this will not be considered a separation, which could have an effect on other divorce issues such as the division of assets and support orders.

Moreover, nesting can be expensive, as it entails not only keeping up the family home, but also paying for one or two additional homes. Also, parents must make sure they have an agreement about who is to pay for groceries, do certain chores and upkeep the family home. Without an agreed-upon arrangement in place, it could lead to conflict that pits the child in the middle of two warring parents, which is exactly the opposite of what parents hope to achieve through nesting.

In the end, though, parents who choose nesting often do so in an effort to put their child's needs first. They understand that they will both be involved in the child's life, even after their divorce, so some sort of cooperation is necessary. While nesting is not feasible for everyone, when it works it may lead to a post-divorce life that meets everyone's needs.

Source: The Washington Post, "Letting the kids stay in the home while the divorcing parents move in and out. Is it realistic?," Fiona Tapp, July 27, 2017

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