Some separated parents opt to do 'nesting' during the separation phase whilst others opt to stay ‘cooped up’ under the one roof as separated parents during the transitional phase until their divorce is finalised.
‘Nesting’ is when the children stay in the family home whilst the parents swap in and out during custody time. Some families are lucky enough to have the funds to rent a one-bedroom apartment whilst others who can’t afford a second residence opt to stay with family or friends during their non-custody time.
‘Cooped Up’ is when parents are separated under the one roof and move into separate bedrooms and live like flat-mates. They go about their daily lives as best as they can in a disconnected manner doing their own thing.
There are pros and cons to both options.
The pros of 'nesting' are -
1. The kids get to stay in the family home whilst mum & dad swap in for their custody time giving the kids the sense of 'home' instead of 'mum's place vs 'dads place'
2. The parents get some space by having time out in a rented apartment to process their emotions and recharge their batteries to rebuild stamina and strength to get through this traumatic time
3. Minimal change for the kids to enable them to stay in the family home, go to the same school, stay in the area where their friends are and extra-curricular activities can continue.
4. Parents are putting the kids needs first instead of their own
5. It provides the whole family the opportunity to transition to the new family structure slowly whilst they are negotiating financial settlement
The cons of 'nesting' are -
1. Families may find conflict increases with financial stress of funding a second residence
2. Difficult to maintain long term especially when one parent re-partners and the dynamics change
3. For the parent who didn't want the separation they live in hope of reconciliation that may never occur
4. The parent resisting divorce may find it painful to be home then feel evicted over and over again delaying their healing
5. The kids may hope their parents get back together since either parent spends time staying at the family home
The pros of being ‘cooped up’ are –
1. The family financials continue as is without financial stress trying to fund two properties with rent, mortgage, utilities, rates, etc.
2. The kids have both parents in their life every day like they have been use to so they may not feel the effects of the separation as yet
3. Some parents may trial the separation under the same roof as an opportunity to do counselling with the possibility of reconciliation
4. Single parenting doesn’t start until one parent moves out so provides continued shared parenting support in helping the kids with driving them to school, pickups, extra-curricular activities and helping with homework
5. Provides time to plan the transition to separate living arrangements instead of it being a hasty exit
The cons of being ‘cooped up’ are -
1. A parent not wanting the separation may find it too upsetting seeing the other parent daily who may be acting cold, disconnected and aloof
2. The level of conflict may increase when staying under the same roof as the one wanting to leave may feel trapped
3. If one parent has started dating it could be hurtful to the parent who may have hopes of reconciliation
4. The kids may feel stressed, anxious and fearful if the levels of conflict have increased damaging their mental health
5. The kids may take on the ‘mission’ to try to bring parents back together and get very disappointed if their efforts fail thinking it is their fault when their parents finally separate
In summary, nesting is a great 'transitional' phase whilst divorce and property settlements are processed giving the family time to adjust to the new family structure but can increase financial stress and burden on the already stressed family. Cooped up in the one household enables the family time to plan their separation but can cause heightened conflict for the parent wanting to leave feeling trapped finding it unbearable to stay in the status quo. Also the devastated parent finds it hard to accept and heal if they see their emotionally disconnected ex daily.
Separated parents should assess their own family needs and circumstances with the children’s needs as highest priority so as to help the family transition to the new family structure.
Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Mediator & Author