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Shared parenting & ‘nesting’ in separation

For families going through a separation, many are adopting a style of parenting called ‘nesting’. The Separation Guide has experienced an increase in people seeking support for parenting arrangements after separation.

So what is ‘nesting’ in separation?

Jack Whelan, Mediator and Barrister explains: “nesting in separation (or ‘bird-nesting”) is a process whereby the children of the relationship remain living in one home space while the separated parents move in and out on a rotating basis. This is often used in the early phase of separation and can be an interim arrangement while formal shared parenting arrangements are made.”

Particularly relevant for co-parenting arrangements during the pandemic, Jack describes that “with the uncertainty of lockdowns, some couples have elected to cohabitate while severing ties”.

Tarnya Davis, a clinical psychologist explains “it’s important that children continue to have a relationship with both parents” – and it seems that nesting may be one way to ensure this.

With no set rules on how to nest, nesting is something that will work in some families and not at all in others. Some separated parents will continue to have dinner together once per week in the family home, and others will pass by each other in the hallway when the other comes home. However it unfolds, staying in the comfort of their own home with their familiar surroundings can help support children during this challenging time.

The Separation Guide spoke with a local Melbourne family, who have been ‘nesting’ in their family home for over six months now.

“It’s challenging for the parents, emotionally and physically – I won’t lie it has not been easy…” but, “amongst the chaos and disruption of our marriage breakdown, it is by far the best way for our boys to transition to our new normal”, says Andrew* from Bayside Melbourne.

“I was a child of divorce and remember it being an awful time for me and my sister, being pulled between both places, always packing bags and forgetting my special toys or various school needs. As an adult I thought about it and decided that just because (Karen* & I) couldn’t make it work together, why should my children have to suffer any more than they already will?”

The challenge comes when a family needs to look beyond nesting.

Consideration needs to be made for parenting and custodial arrangements.

With due process to be followed, and time acting as a healer, Andrew has faith that nesting has been the right interim solution for their family.
“I’m not sure how that is going to look for us going forward, obviously this can’t go on forever, but it has been a nice way for us all to adjust, especially amongst the ongoing lockdowns.”

Arabella Feltham, who works as a Separation Consultant for The Separation Guide, has explained that

“What people are trying to do is keep the children as undisrupted as they can, keep them in the family home” allowing everyone to adjust to the changes in a more familiar environment.

Generally, nesting is more appropriate where the separation is amicable and should always be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Please note: this is not appropriate in some circumstances particularly where there is any family violence.

We are here to support people whatever their separation circumstances.
If you are thinking about separating follow this link to take our free Q&A.
Click here to read more about nesting.

*names changed for privacy reasons.