Our successful nesting co-parenting arrangement (9 years and counting!) benefited from a team of professionals. My advice on how to maximize your legal and financial professionals if you are considering nesting after divorce.
When we began considering divorce over nine years ago, my then-spouse and I made the untraditional choice to have our three children continue to live in our family home. My ex and I are the ones who move back and forth taking turns parenting them. This type of co-parenting is called nesting or bird-nesting.
As I describe in my book, Nesting After Divorce: Co-Parenting in the Family Home, a supportive “team” was essential in establishing our nesting situation, and in helping it run smoothly for so many years. The most important ventures in life often require help from others. Divorce and nesting are certainly no exception. For us, this team included mental health support (therapists for ourselves and our children), friends and family (for help with the logistics of child care), and legal and financial professionals.
While I know we could not have nested in an emotionally healthy way without the help of therapy and the support of friends and family, the efforts of the legal and financial experts were what established a strong frame on which we built our co-parenting arrangement. My ex and I were fortunate to find divorce lawyers and financial advisers who supported our idea to nest and helped us achieve our goals without causing irreparable damage to either of our financial situations. You may need to shop around to find people who are willing to think creatively to assist you in achieving your goals. But as nesting is becoming more common, most professionals are at least familiar with the concept, and many have experience in setting up nesting agreements.
One of the appeals of nesting is that it allows much of the status quo of your family life to remain. Still, because your marriage is ending, you may need to re-envision your goals for your family and reassess your financial situation and how those goals can best be achieved.
In my experience (and the experience of the other nesting families I interviewed for my book), here are some of the primary nesting-related legal and financial issues to consider as you move forward with your plan to nest. You and your soon-to-be-ex may come to agreement on many of these in advance, but reviewing the pros and cons of each of them with a professional is well worth the effort.
- Are we legally divorcing as soon as possible, or are we on a longer-range timeline?
- Should the existing ownership of the family home change or stay the same?
- What is our timeline for selling the family home?
- How will the eventual sale of the home affect each of us financially?
- What are reasonable percentages for each parent to contribute to costs of the shared home, including maintenance and general upkeep and the costs of major improvements or unexpected emergency repairs?
- How will the out-of-nest residence(s) by paid for?
- Does the financing of the nesting situation affect how alimony or child support should be estimated?
- Do we want to establish rules about access to the home, or personal private spaces, when the other parent is on duty?
- Single parenting can be challenging — what assistance might we need to pay for to help nesting run smoothly?
- For example, childcare such as a nanny or babysitter, and/or before-or after-school care; home-related help like housecleaning, dog-walking, or landscaping services; food related help like grocery deliveries or meal kit services
- Might it make sense to financially compensate one or the other parent who takes on more than 50% of the care of the children or home?
- What changes to our wills or life insurance policies might be required, considering the nesting situation, to provide for the care of the children and or the other parent should one of us die or become unable to work?
- What if one of the children has challenges—physical, mental, or financial—that impact their ability to be independent by a certain age? Will we continue to nest or work together in some other way to help support them?
Divorce is an incredibly unsettling time. The consistency of nesting helps ease the transition into post-divorce life for the children. Parents can also benefit emotionally and financially from nesting, but it’s important to think through some of the more complicated financial and legal scenarios to start off co-parenting on solid ground.
About Beth Behrendt
Beth Behrendt is a freelance writer and divorced mother of three. She’s the author of Nesting After Divorce: Co-Parenting in the Family Home. She’s written about nesting for The New York Times, Psychology Today and other publications and has appeared on a variety of podcasts and TV shows, all of which can be found at her website FamilyNesting.Org.