Child Nesting: How it Can Lessen the Negative Effects of Divorce

Posted by on Oct 14, 2013

Child Nesting: How it Can Lessen the Negative Effects of Divorce

I recently attended a presentation advising parents who are parting ways on how to lessen the negative effects of divorce on their children. The main message Lynette Roux of the South Africa Association of Mediators passed on, was that children, particularly younger ones, need regular contact with both parents. In fact the ideal situation for the custody of children is for them to have short periods of contact with each parent every day.

Inevitably though, the reality very often doesn’t accommodate this “ideal solution” suggested. Many divorcing parents are unable to make regular contact due to geographical constraints or because they’re simply unable to emotionally deal with having their ex-partner in their space on a daily basis.

The first impediment can be overcome with the help of technology, for instance setting up regular contact between parents and children using Skype and similar tools. While this alternative is clearly second best to actual physical contact, it is better than the age old “every second weekend” arrangement, which isn’t optimal for the development of a child’s relationship with the non-primary resident parent, as well as their development overall.

Naturally in situations where there is domestic violence, substance abuse or an abusive parent, this level of contact isn’t suitable. In this case, a different arrangement would be set up for the custody of the children, which could include supervised contact.

However, in most situations where two loving parents are both heavily invested in their children and decide to part ways, it’s imperative for the focus to be on what is in the best interests of the children. So if the non-primary resident parent is able to obtain accommodation geographically close to the children’s primary residence, this will help alleviate the stress of the inter-parent commute for them and be highly beneficial.

Another very interesting phenomenon which is appearing in the United States but which has not yet gained traction here is the concept of “child nesting”. This is a residency situation in which both parents move in and out of the marital home while the children remain there. This arrangement reduces the disruptive effects of the divorce on the children and ensures continuity in their home environment.

Naturally the child nesting arrangement is one which can only be utilised in very specific circumstances. The marital home is often the most valuable asset in the estate of the divorcing parties and few may be able to afford the luxury of obtaining separate accommodation for the periods of time during which the other parent is with the children.

This becomes even more complicated where parties have remarried and now have second families. However in instances where parties are financially and emotionally able to accommodate such an arrangement, it’s certainly a highly beneficial option to consider and will greatly decrease the negative effects of divorce on the children concerned.

By Gillian Lowndes, attorney specialising in family law