[This article originally appeared in Divorce Magazine’s blog on October 22, 2020.]
Nesting after divorce is a type of custody arrangement that means the children stay in one home all the time. The parents are the ones who move in and out to have their parenting time with the kids. My ex and I and our three sons have been doing this for over six years.
One of the most frequent questions we get is: “Sounds like a great idea for the kids, but how the heck can you afford to do that?” Our answer? “We think nesting has actually saved us a fair amount of money!”
What is Nesting After Divorce?
Unlike a traditional divorce scenario, nesting after divorce means there is only one primary residence. In a traditional approach, two homes are required, each large enough to accommodate all the children and all the necessities they require for daily life (even if they’re in the house only fifty percent or less of their time). A short list of these necessities would include: clothing, toiletries, food, school supplies, technology; and depending on their hobbies and interests: gaming systems, books, art supplies, musical equipment, bikes and other sporting gear.
As a nesting family, we never had to duplicate all the necessities needed to raise three boys, nor had to purchase a second family-sized home. In a nesting custody arrangement, the children retain their space and one set of their personal belonging in one centralized residence. Child-related housing and material expenses are the same as pre-divorce.
Traditional Divorce Scenarios
In traditional scenarios, often divorcing couples find that they need to sell the larger family home to be able to afford two smaller homes. Associated costs with selling the family home include preparing the home for sale (e.g. repairs, upgrades, and perhaps staging costs), real estate agent and home inspector fees, and closing costs. On top of those costs, there will then be the costs of renting or purchasing two new homes: deposits, setting up utilities, making repairs or upgrades before moving in, decorating, buying furniture, and purchasing and setting up technology and entertainment systems.
In other divorce situations, they may decide that one parent keeps the family home, and a second residence needs to be established for the other parent – one that has the space and amenities to comfortably raise the children. The purchase of this second home of course requires all the same costs as outlined above.
Yes, each parent needs a space to live when not in “the nest”, but there’s less expense and hassle because you’re not trying to duplicate the children’s primary residence. This secondary residence only needs to provide space and amenities for what that one parent needs when on their own.
Some examples of secondary homes outside of the family home: one apartment that they both “share” (never being there at the same time); one apartment for one parent, while the other parent lives with a significant other, friend, or relative; or two small apartments for each parent. (Note: I say apartment, but it could be a condo or townhome, a tiny house, the converted garage at your home – a la the TV show Splitting Up Together – or whatever other creative idea you come up with.)
For details about how nesting after divorce has evolved for us logistically, read this article. Currently our housing costs are: maintaining the family home and renting a small apartment. I live in the apartment I am not at the house parenting our boys. My ex spends his non-parenting time either traveling for work or staying at his significant other’s home. The costs of maintaining the established family home and renting a small apartment are undoubtedly less than if we had purchased, furnished, and maintained two separate full-size homes for the past six and a half years.
Other savings of the centralized family home scenario include the benefit of having the home taken care of full-time. My ex travels frequently – sometimes as much as half the month. If the boys and I weren’t staying in the home while he is gone – if the house stood empty for extended periods – we would have to pay for a lawn service, pool service, snow removal, and dog walking. Instead, the boys can do these chores because they are always living there (we didn’t have three kids not to get some benefits!). The home being constantly cared for also alleviates the excessive costs of any emergency damage and repairs that would occur in an unoccupied home. For example, if the roof leaks, the furnace fails, or the power goes out while my ex is gone, I’m there to deal with it immediately – instead of him coming home to a costly flooded living room, broken pipes, or a fridge full of rotten food!
Yes, my ex and I initially pursued nesting because we thought it would be best for the children – and it has been – but the financial benefits are certainly rewarding as well. Divorce is fraught with stress and worry. Adding untenable financial burdens only exacerbates these emotions. Nesting can help make the situation better in this and so many other ways as well.
Please visit my website FamilyNesting.Org and subscribe to my email list for more information about the ins and outs of nesting co-parenting.
And check out this video, I chat a bit more about the financial benefits of birdnesting coparenting from my personal experience.