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Do you think you could share a house with your spouse in divorce?

Many parents, perhaps some here in New Hampshire, are trying out a fairly new shared custody arrangement during divorce referred to as "nesting." You might choose to implement the idea during your separation, and then develop a backup plan for after you finalize your divorce. That seems to be what many people do. However, some continue with their nesting lifestyle even after they've settled their divorces. If you were to try this new custody trend, the basic premise involves your kids continuing to live in your marital home.

You and your former spouse would take turns living with your kids. Of course, that means when it's not your turn you'd have to have somewhere else to live. There are pros and cons to the idea, but if you think it might be a viable option for your family, you can draw up an agreement and seek the court's approval.

Potential benefits of nesting in divorce

Divorce can be just as hard on your children as it is on you, in some ways, perhaps more. A nesting arrangement may provide stability for your kids during an emotionally difficult time in their lives. The following list includes other possible benefits that nesting may provide:

  • Easy access, as far as communication goes:  Since you and your former spouse will be coming and going in and out of the same house you shared when you were married, relaying messages regarding the children will be very easy. You can designate a whiteboard or notepad as a message center and leave each other notes when necessary.
  • Children experience less change: One of the greatest challenges for children of divorce is adapting to new homes, schools, locations, friends, etc. When your kids get to keep living in the house they've always lived in, it can help them navigate the emotional process of your divorce a lot easier.
  • Children have ample time with both parents: The court generally believes that most children fare best when they spend a lot of time with both parents after divorce. Nesting allows them to do that and also lets them witness their parents' willingness to cooperate so the emotional and physical needs of everyone are provided for even after the divorce.

There are other perks to nesting as well. You won't have to sell your house. You also won't have to worry about trying to keep track of your children's backpacks, sports equipment and other personal items, or at least not as much as you would if you were shuttling them back and forth between houses.

The downside

When making a major life decision, it's always good to consider all aspects. There are a few potential problems with the nesting idea, some of which include the following:

  • Emotions may surprise you: When you continue living in the house you shared with your spouse and you see each other on a regular basis, you may experience emotions you weren't expecting. For some, this type of living situation is a bit too close for comfort and they find it easier to adapt to divorce by starting anew in separate homes.
  • Extra expenses: If you're house is not yet paid off, you will still be responsible for the mortgage, in addition to any living expenses associated with the residence you live in when it's not your turn to stay with your kids.
  • Children may have false hope: Nesting can sometimes lead children to believe their parents will get back together. While this may be possible on rare occasions, if it's not your intent, you may want to make sure your children clearly understand the purpose of the arrangement.

Whether nesting or selling your house and moving on, you may face all sorts of challenges as you build a new life with your children after divorce. If complications arise regarding custody or visitation that create legal obstacles, you may want to reach out for support to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

Sometimes, litigation may be necessary to resolve a particular problem. An experienced family law attorney can be a great asset in such circumstances.

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