In a “non-typical” move following the news of the president of Canada, Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s separation, the couple have also announced that their children will remain primarily with the father, and the mother will return to the matrimonial home to parent the children. Many experts have likened this arrangement to “nesting” and say it can provide “tremendous stability” for the children.
The arrangements will see Trudeau remain living at Rideau Cottage whilst Grégoire has moved to a private residence nearby but will care for the children at Rideau Cottage.
So, what are nesting arrangements?
This is an arrangement for sharing the care of the child(ren) when parents are separating, allowing the children to remain in the family home. In these arrangements, the parents rotate between the family home and another property. This arrangement is commonly used as a short-term solution in circumstances where the separating parents continue to share the family home as their main residence, or when the parent who has moved out is yet to set up a permanent or suitable home elsewhere.
Where does the name ‘nesting arrangement’ come from?
You might be asking where the name “nesting” comes from and why it is attributed in cases where families are separating. In short, the name comes from birds! In the animal world, one bird leaves the nest in search of food, whilst the other remains with the chicks, and they alternate.
Does it work for the children?
This really depends on the family. But, in general, it is thought that nesting arrangements can decrease the immediate impact of the parents’ separation for the children. It causes less disruption to their routines and maintains some sort of status quo until more longer-term arrangements can be put in place.
On the other hand, however, there is an argument that these arrangements could lead to confusion and actually delays the inevitable for the children, making it more difficult for them to come to terms with their parents’ split.
The financial impact of nesting
Financial considerations are probably one of the most important factors for separating parents.
Where one parent moves into rented accommodation whilst the financial negotiations are taking place, there is of course a significant cost to be met and taken into account. For married couples, the rental payments will likely reduce the “overall pot” available for division between the parties which will affect any onward purchases they wish to make.
In some cases, the parties may be advised to remain in the family home whilst negotiations are continuing. It may be that the advice to remain in the family home presents better at court, the court might be concerned about the precedents being set with nesting arrangements, deeming these to be unfair.
Where parents continue to live together, there is no child maintenance payable, it also means, that for families who would otherwise be eligible for child benefits or tax credits, these are not available whilst they are still living together. Unless both parties have independent income, or savings to meet their ongoing needs, interim financial applications may need to be made to the Court.
This leaves many asking the question – are nesting arrangements only tenable for the rich?
Whilst it may be financially easier for those who can afford a second property, the bigger questions around nesting arrangements are surely about the impact of these on the separating parents and the children. What about the mental health implications for the family? It is therefore important to seek independent advice at the earliest opportunity when your relationship breaks down so that you are clear about your position and can make a well informed decision.
What do the courts say?
In the recent case of A,B and C (Children: Nesting Arrangements) the Judge described the nesting arrangement as “desperately unsatisfactory” and not a satisfactory solution in the long term, the arrangements had been overextended and no longer helpful for the children, giving them a false promise of the reality of their parents’ separation. In this particular case, the parents were sharing the care of the children equally, rotating in the family home for 2 nights and then 5 nights at a time. the father wanted the arrangement to continue until the financial matters had been resolved, some 6 months later and the mother wanted to take the children to her new home.
The matter was within the Court arena under Children Act proceedings. The father informed the social worker of his position, believing that the nesting arrangements provided the children with a stable base “in the only home they have known” and without causing any disruption to the lives they were used to living. The mother, on the other hand, told the social worker that the father was a frightening man who would always get his own way and felt that she was unable to continue with the arrangements. The independent social worker concluded that it was in the best interests of the children to share their time with both parents, in their separate homes. He noted that nesting arrangements can work well and be of benefit to all when the parents are in agreement. However, where parental conflict remains, the outcome is less likely to be a positive one. In his opinion, if the current arrangements were to continue that this would adversely affect the children’s relationship with their mother.
This case suggests that at the Judicial level, there is a view that nesting arrangements are only beneficial in the short term, but in the long run, the parents’ motivation for two separate homes, nesting arrangements lose its effectiveness.
Only time will tell how successful the Tradeau’s are with their nesting arrangements.
For more information on nesting arrangements, or if you would like to discuss separation or divorce, please contact our family law team by calling 01727 798000.