In client meetings, the issue of custody is often a very difficult conversation. Even with joint custody, if the children primarily live with one parent, often the other parent feels like they are giving up the kids. Divorce is difficult enough; the perception of giving up your children may be just too much to take.
Imagine this: the parents are getting divorced. That is traumatic enough, but now the parents can’t agree on where the children shall live and with whom. The children have to live with the decisions their parents make, but parents often look at custody from their point of view only, not from the children’s point of view. They reason, “Well, they can live with one of us or we can share them 50% of the time each, or each of us can take one child (called split custody) and those are our only options.”
The idea of splitting up young siblings is awful to contemplate from both the adults’ and the children’s point of view. It doesn’t matter that they sometimes argue or fight, they are siblings and that relationship is a very, very strong bond which will never change. Sometimes the younger child looks up to and finds comfort in the older child, almost like a parenting role. Siblings should be able to maintain their bond at all ages especially through the teen years. Remember being a teenager?
We know from the empirical evidence that the less the children’s lives change during divorce the better. Maintaining the status quo, certainly during the period of adjustment to the parent’s getting divorced and not living together, is generally better for the kids.
In other blogs, I have described the different forms of custody, but there is a type of shared parenting called Nesting.
- What is nesting?
- When would you think about using it?
- If it is more rare than other forms of parenting, why consider using it?
Nesting is an alternative living arrangement where the kids stay put and the parents move around. In nesting, the kids stay in their house and in their rooms. Everything is the same. The same school district, same friends, etc. The parents take turns staying with them in the marital residence. Some parents do one week on/one week off; others may opt for 2 weeks or a month on/off. The time that the parents share with the kids in the residence is as close to normal as they can get since the children are used to having the parents with them in the marital residence. The difference is that they don’t see both parents at the same time. This arrangement allows the children to stay together in their home, so that bond stays there and their home base is unchanged. Thus allowing the children a transition period to get used to the idea of only being with one parent at a time.
This is not meant as a long term solution, but as a transitional plan to allow the kids time to adapt to the divorce. However, I have couples that I have been tracking for years and nesting is still working very well. The kids are thriving. In the future, when an event like changing from junior high school to high school or high school to college, then maybe that’s the appropriate time to revisit the nesting agreement and perhaps make a change.
If you are having a hard time deciding on which custody/parenting arrangement will work best for you and your kids, you might want to give nesting a try.