Adapted from my post on Psychology Today, March 20, 2019
nesting birds

What do I mean by “Nesting”?

Nesting families keep the children in the family home while the parents rotate in and out to care for them. The “on-duty” parent stays in the home with the children while the “off-duty” parent usually stays in another location.

There are many options for living arrangements when one parent is “off-duty.” Parents may live in separate areas within the home or, more commonly, in another location when they are “off-duty.” Some parents share the off-site residence, while others find separate living quarters, or stay with friends or family.

There are three main goals

  • To provide a “time out” from marital conflict
  • Maintain a stable home for the children
  • Allow time for decision-making while the parents decide whether to divorce or reconcile

Sharing the nest is usually temporary, until you have made decisions about the future of your marriage. You may nest for months or even several years. I spoke to someone recently who told me that she and her ex nested for almost seven years. Some parents agree to nest until a milestone is reached, such as the finalizing of the divorce settlement, or the children’s graduation from high school.

Successful nesting is built on agreements about communication, schedules, and finances.

My book, A Parent’s Guide to Birdnesting, will walk you step-by-step through the process.

Who can nest successfully?

  1. Parents who are usually able to communicate respectfully with each other
  2. Parents who commit to leaving the family home in reasonable condition when turning over the duties to the other parent
  3. Nesting can be a good choice for parents who are able to set aside their emotions in order to prioritize the children’s welfare.
  4. Parents who respect each other as parents and want to remain fully involved as co-parents


Advantages of Nesting

Advantages of Nesting:

  1. Since their routines may not change much, nesting provides stability and minimal disruption for your children while you adjust to solo-parenting.
  2. The children have quality time with each parent.
  3. Making and keeping agreements with your spouse helps you rebuild trust and goodwill.
  4. Some nesting parents call themselves “apartners” as they live apart while they partner as co-parents.
  5. Nesting gives both of you time to make big decisions about your future. If you go on to divorce, you have time to decide about finances and future living arrangements.
  6. If you nest during a trial separation you may work on repairing your marriage and eventually reconcile

Disadvantages of Nesting:

  1. You may find it disruptive to move in and out of the family home, and the alternate location may be less than ideal. You will, however, learn what your children’s experience will be when they later move from Mom’s house to Dad’s house.
  2. It may be costly to support the family home as well as one or two other living quarters.
  3. Nesting is not advisable in high conflict relationships, or where there are coercive or control issues.
  4. Nesting may become problematic when either of you develops a new serious, long term relationship.

My book, A Parent’s Guide to Birdnesting, will walk you step-by-step through the process.

This is Part 1 of a two-part article. See of this article for more.