Those who watched the third and final season of The Split will have seen Hannah and Nathan Stern agree to a “Nesting arrangement” so what is nesting and is it right for your family?
Nesting is the term given when a separating couple take it in turns to look after the children in the family home. The reasoning behind this kind of arrangement is to make life easier for the children. The theory being that if children are not moving between two different homes they will feel more settled during what is often a turbulent time for them emotionally. The children will be able to see both parents within the family home environment and continue with their usual routine of school and friendship groups. There can be financial advantages to nesting if you have a second home you can make use of or perhaps you are able to stay with friends or family when it’s not your turn in the house. In many ways this sounds ideal. It’s a concept that has grown in popularity in America and Sweden. It does however need very careful thought and a nesting arrangement is unlikely to be in the best interests of the children unless both parents are on amicable terms and are communicating well.
What are the initial considerations if you are thinking of trying nesting?
- Consider the age of the children. It can be easier for younger children to adapt to new situations and a new home and therefore a nesting arrangement may not be necessary.
- Consider the length of the arrangement. If you plan to do this for too long it could cause confusion and lead to the children wondering if a reconciliation is possible.
- Before starting any sort of nesting arrangement it’s crucial to sit down together and work out a clear and written “nesting plan” including expectations in respect of the financial implications of running the family home.
- Consider privacy issues. It could be uncomfortable to share the same space and to know that your personal belongings are in the home when you are not.
- Nesting is unlikely to best for the children if it’s financially motivated.
Is there any recent case law on nesting?
Yes, a recent case is A, B and C (Children: Nesting Arrangement)  EWCA Civ 68. This case involved three children (aged, 9, 15 and 17) who lived with both parents under a 2:2:5:5 nesting arrangement. Each parent would take turns to leave the former family home for two or five days at a time (depending on which week it was).
The mother had started financial proceedings as part of the divorce. The Judge made comments that the nesting arrangement was “desperately unsatisfactory…..” He expressed a preference that the children should be moving between homes rather than the parents. The mother later applied for injunction proceedings against the father.
She wanted to move to a more conventional arrangement where the shared care of the children took place from two separate households. The father wanted the nesting arrangement to continue.
The Judge at a subsequent hearing stated: “My primary focus is the children and I am clear that the nesting arrangement has significantly overextended beyond the time that it has been helpful to the children.” He gave three reasons for coming to this conclusion:
- “ …it gives false promises to the children as to the reality of their parents’ separation;
- it deprives the children of spending quality time with their mother in the new home that she has established [and],
- to expect the mother to see the children away from her home directly impinges on her ability to be as good a mother to them as she possibly can be.”
The Judge directed that the arrangements should move to a week on/week off pattern with time spent with the mother at her own home on alternate weekends.
The father appealed but was unsuccessful.
This case highlights that children’s welfare is paramount. Where nesting arrangements are seen as harmful to the children, the court will move away from these arrangements.
There could of course be a different outcome in a case in which both parents agreed on nesting and their only disagreement was how time should be shared. It is important to bear in mind that every case is different and although this case does give us important guidance in relation to how a nesting case will be treated by the court it is very fact dependant.
The Birketts Family Team can help parents to reach arrangements and obtain assistance from other professionals including family therapists and mediators qualified to work with children to help look at what will work for the family as a whole.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at May 2022.