By Megan S. White
After seven years of marriage, Kristin Cavallari from the reality show, Very Cavallari, and former NFL quarterback, Jay Cutler announced their split in April. Kristin and Jay have three minor children: Camden (age 7), Jaxon (age 5), and Saylor (age 4). Originally, sources noted that the couple were arguing about where Kristin Cavallari would live after the split. Allegedly, Kristin had been looking at a 5-million-dollar estate since November of 2019 and the parties finally agreed for her to move forward with purchasing the home in exchange for splitting time with the children on a one week on and one week off basis.i The children will remain in the former marital residence while Kristin and Jay rotate in and out weekly. While this may seem a bit unusual, it is a growing trend in family law.
“Nesting” is the idea that the minor children remain in the former marital residence while the parents alternate moving in and out of the house on a weekly or other basis. Many newly separated parents are opting to do this for several reasons including stability, familiarity, and consistency.
Parents are opting for this new idea of “nesting” to allow their children to feel more stable during the divorce. Historically, when parents divorced, children moved back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s house. While packing a bag for summer camp may be exciting, the idea of “packing up” each week becomes increasingly difficult when school, extracurricular activities, and life becomes involved. Alternating households can create extra stress on a child trying to remember to bring the math book, soccer cleats, and stuffed animal to Dad’s house. Many adults can handle the movement stress much better than their children and opt to take on that weight rather than their children carrying an additional burden.
Often parents cite their reason for nesting as familiarity for their children. Notably, if a child has grown up in a certain home, the home can hold a significant place in that child’s heart. Anyone whose been around children will tell you that children become attached to their surroundings. Moving to a new house or apartment can be strenuous for a child while Mom and Dad go through a divorce. As you can imagine, divorce comes with a lot of change. Many parents elect to provide their child a secure and familiar place, while the parents seek other living arrangements. By nesting, the child or children can remain in their room and their neighborhood which many parents feel is the best option for their child or children’s needs.
The final reason that parents are trying out this new method is consistency. Certainly, all parties and children are familiar with the former home and can keep a similar routine while working through the legal process. Many separated parents express concern about the lack of consistency their child is now experiencing due to the divorce. By allowing the children to remain in the home, parents feel that this allows consistency for their children. For example, the distance to school remains the same, the route to gymnastics class is the same, and the same neighbors live next door. The small things often establish a routine for children and can potentially help them navigate their parents’ divorce.
Is nesting right for everyone? Absolutely not! Every family law attorney will tell you that each case is different and unique. We rarely ever get two cases that are alike. While nesting might be right for some families, for others… it simply doesn’t work. First, the expense of separating is financially difficult for many families. Turning one household into two creates a financial burden for many so imagine making that three households: mom’s, dad’s, and children’s. You very likely would be paying for your new home and part of the former martial residence. As a celebrity and athlete, Kristin Cavallari and Jay Cutler have the finances to make this work for them while the average American family would find this financially troublesome.
Likewise, nesting may be a temporary solution for a family. In the long term, many parents can find that with work, family, and life – it’s difficult to move back and forth. Specifically, depending on your work schedule, it may not be feasible to operate with a nesting schedule especially if one parent travels or has varying hours. While Kristin and Jay are not working your typical 9-5 schedule, they likely have much more flexibility to operate on this schedule for their children.
Finally, both parents have to be seriously committed to the nesting plan and have a strong co-parenting relationship for nesting to be successful. Imagine continuing to “share” a home with the person you have separated from because they are messy, inconsistent, or non-existent in general. Continuing to “share” a home may create more conflict and tension leaving both parties frustrated and overwhelmed. Presumably, this type of arrangement would not work for parties who have those issues.
If you are separating or thinking of separating, nesting might be an option for you and your family just like the Cavallari/Cutler household. While this trend continues to grow in North Carolina, many families are finding it to be a viable option for their family. While there are certainly factors to consider, it may just be the new age of nesting.
i Kristin Cavallari, Jay Cutler reach custody agreement in ongoing divorce proceedings, report says