Is Court-Ordered Nesting “For the Birds,” or Can it Work?

I have encountered numerous unusual divorce and child custody cases as a family law attorney. But a recent custody dispute resulted in a court-ordered arrangement that took unusual to a new level.

The judicial officer in the case ordered “nesting,” a temporary living arrangement designed to make the divorce process easier on children and made famous in the TV series “Jon & Kate Plus 8” in 2009 when the parents split up. As the name suggests, it requires the children to stay in place in one home – the nest – while the parents cycle in and out on a court-approved rotation.

While nesting remains a rare outcome, it has gained prevalence in recent years. I’m aware of nesting instances in recent months in Ohio, including the matter involving my current client, a divorcing mother of two.

I’ve learned that nesting can be a good short-term solution to ease children into their parents’ separation. However, it can also quickly bring problems – to children and parents alike.

On the positive side, nesting recognizes that splitting time between two unfamiliar homes can be difficult on children, especially younger ones, while they are also coming to terms with no longer seeing their parents together. Nesting allows children to stay in the home and lifestyle they are familiar with without worrying about bouncing between two houses. It can work well if the parties get along and agree.

Scheduling will vary case-by-case based on the court’s order – my client received a 2-day rotating schedule.

On the downside, nesting can dissolve into an annoyance – even a danger – if parents do not get along. By sharing a home, albeit at different times, the separated couple will continue to have access to each other. This can be especially problematic if one parent is against the divorce or is very angry about it. In addition, nesting allows a parent to pester their ex – not to mention being aware of their ex’s location for at least half the time.

Additionally, nesting increases expenses for both parents. Outside of the nesting home, parents must find and fund their own housing while continuing to pay for their nesting home. Financing two homes, on top of legal fees and childcare expenses, can be crippling.

Nesting can also lead to confusion in children who do not understand why their parents are leaving their house for days. Psychologists and counselors tend to agree that nesting is not beneficial for children long-term.

Nesting can be a complicated and contentious issue in family law. While it may seem like a viable option for some, it’s essential to consider the long-term effects on children and the potential for continued conflict between parties.