Putting Parents In Child's Shoes
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico

I recently received a phone call from a journalist who was writing an article for LIFE magazine about "nesting". That is the label given to divorcing parents who have their children live in what was the family home, while the parents take turns moving in and out. The author said she'd heard that I had ordered "nesting" custody arrangements as a family court judge. She wanted the names of parents who were living such a plan.

I explained that, while I have from time to time ordered parents to move in and out of the family home to "visit" with their children, I have never seen a couple who were able to tolerate it for more than a couple of months. It is a very uncomfortable and confusing way to live.

There are two primary reasons I sometimes order "nesting".

First, it keeps the divorce playing-field level. When a divorce suit is first started, parents often jockey for position. Each tries to gain an upper hand. They believe that whichever one can get to stay in the home and have primary custody of the children will have a stronger claim at the end. One way to stop the power-play is to order "nesting".

Secondly, parents who are required to move back and forth between an apartment one week and the family home the next week, will have a first-hand understanding of what it will be like for their children to move back and forth between mom's house and dad's house after the divorce.

The second of these two goals may be the most important and useful. Parents who have actually experienced the stress of living out of a suitcase, which is one aspect of visitation children of divorce experience, are more likely to develop sensible time-sharing plans--plans that don't force their children to switch back and forth too often; plans that allow their children the peace of a primary, stable home.

Parents who have lived with a "nesting" plan rarely suggest a 50/50 time-sharing plan for their children. These parents will realize that they may want equal time and that equal-time would be fair for them, but these parents will put their wants behind the needs of their children.

"Nesting" is a difficult and unpleasant experiment, but it probably should be made a part of every family's divorce process. There's nothing quite as powerful an educational tool as is walking a mile in someone else's shoes.




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