Who gets the House after Divorce? The Kids? Yes, sometimes the kids do get the house. For a time anyway.

For many separating parents, the idea of the kids having to move or “lose” their house is painful. Over the years, I have known many couples who have tried moving in and out of the family home, instead of their kids being the ones to pack their bags all the time.

For this to work, both of you need to be equally committed to the idea, be relatively low conflict, and to be able set “rules of occupation” before you start. The first rules will need to be about how you pay for it, how long the experiment is to last, and how you are going to review it.

You do need other rules too. And remember, breaking and bending of the rules is death to bird’s nesting.

It can sound almost  trivial at the start to talk about the up-close-and-personal rules for the shared homes. Who shops for the food? Who cleans the fridge? What are the rules about changing the linen, housework, inviting new partners in, looking after the dog and the budgie, finding your own space? Most of the tedious things are made easier if you have, or can afford, two homes with private spaces, and you can pay for cleaners and other domestic services.

Bird’s nesting can be a gentler start to separation, if it works for both parents, and your kids don’t get to hear or pick up on the gripes that come with the territory. Eventually, most people want to “move on” or feel that the kids are more settled, and the arrangement ends. That isn’t a failure, its a natural progression.

One of my clients, Steve we’ll call him, shared the family home with his ex for almost a year after they separated. The parents moved in or out each Saturday morning. Their plan was to spend time with their kids week about indefinitely, but after  a year of packing their bags once a week, Steve and his ex decided that they needed to come up with a plan that meant their kids had a “main” home, and only had to pack overnight bags for a day or a short stay. They “nested” for the sake of their kids. They applied the lessons from nesting for the sake of their kids too.

Marguerite Picard

A peacemaking “old” family lawyer