If you are going through a divorce in Florida involving children, you will repeatedly hear the phrase: “in the best interest of the children,” or “parenting plan” over and over again. You will, likely, hear it from your attorney, from the opposing party or opposing attorney, and, even, from the judge assigned to your case. That’s because, in determining child related matters, the best interests of your children are the court’s primary concern.
Although that is always the standard we attempt to adhere to in Florida, there is one timesharing and parenting plan arrangement that, I believe, adheres to this standard more closely than any other arrangement by truly putting the interests of the children above the interests of the parents – nesting. “Nesting” or “bird-nesting” is a co-parenting arrangement that is uniquely child-centered. Rather than the children having to adapt to the parents’ new living arrangements after a divorce, nesting requires the parents are the ones who do the adapting while providing a stable and consistent environment for the children.
Nesting occurs when the children remain in a single home (often, the former marital residence) and it is the parents who travel back and forth during their time with the children. This means that there is some other residence the parents spend time in outside of the children’s home when it is not their time with the kids. This may mean that the couple owns the home the children live in, and owns or rents an additional apartment. While Dad is at the home with the children, Mom is at the apartment and vice-versa.
Although one might think that this only works for a wealthy family with multiple residences, it can, actually, work across a spectrum of income levels. The parent-only dwelling can be a small apartment that does not need to be kid-friendly. Additionally, this parenting plan saves on each parent having to buy accommodating furniture, toys, clothes and the like for the children, because the children live in only one place. For some couples that are not comfortable sharing one parent-only dwelling, they each secure their own place outside the children’s home. This may mean each renting or buying a small place, or staying with friends or family.
The first time I heard of nesting I was stunned I had never thought of such a concept. Of course! Why should the children bear the brunt of the inconvenience of divorce? I grew up a child of divorce in a world of divorce like most of my generation. In our world, getting dragged from Mom’s to Dad’s and back again was the norm, and frankly, for many of my peers, it was not a pleasant experience. Nesting changes that landscape. Nesting changes what it means to grow up in a divorced world.
Of course, nesting does not work for every family. Nesting requires both parents work at co-parenting maturely and amicably. Although this does not mean that there will never be disagreements, it does mean that each parent is respectful of the other parent’s space and belongings. This is not always easy, but for couples truly committed to what is best for their children, this model may be the perfect fit.