Shared Custody – If the Shoe Was On the Other Foot

by Carolyn on August 20, 2009

Moving day!

Moving day!

Yesterday I read the most interesting article about children of divorce.  It discussed the impact of divorce and the issues that can arise from them dealing with an equal physical custody arrangement.  No new information really, as I happily skimmed along.

And then I read it.  And I had to read it again.  All I could think was ‘I did not just read that‘.  Every time I thought about it over the course of the day I would chuckle.  It seemed like such an absurd proposal.  Okay, here it is:

The author actually suggested that divorced parents might spare their children flopping from house to house (I’m paraphrasing here) by allowing them to remain in the family home whilst the parents themselves alternate their own living arrangements.  This would require the parents to move in and out of the family home, allowing their children to stay snug as little bugs in the same stable environment.

I laughed out loud as I read it.  How preposterous!  Expecting parents to constantly shuffle homes.  Living somewhere one week and then living somewhere else the next.  Constantly being uprooted.  Who would do that?  But….wait.

Isn’t that the exact same thing we expect from children of divorce?

Maybe it’s not so preposterous after all.  Maybe we could apply all the watered down accolades that I hear applied to children to make it more enticing for adults.  Maybe divorced parents just need some encouragement, like: “Hey, you’ll feel special and proud to have two of everything.  How many people can say they have two homes?  You’ll adjust.  You’re resilient.  Before you know it everything will be easy, routine.  It’s really not that big of a deal.  It’s certainly a better solution than having your child deprived of one parent!”

Somehow I don’t think we’ll get any takers.

It’s an interesting premise, but I can’t see any divorced parent choosing the life they relegate their child to.  And for children, there are ways to make shared custody work; to minimize the drawbacks.

I’m no fan of sole custody.  I don’t think anybody can dispute the benefits to a child which come from having both parents be active and present figures in their lives.  Children of divorce living in shared custody arrangements are indeed the lucky ones.  But before a divorced parent tries to tell themselves their children feel no repercussions at all, I hope they consider how they themselves would like to live in the same manner.  And before they convince themselves that all is fine because their child tells them so, I hope they would think about what they would say if their child, clearly happy to see them, asked if they really minded moving in and out week to week.  Because chances are they would smile into that face they love more than life and answer ‘it’s no trouble at all’.


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What if divorced parents had to live like children of divorce … | Divorce Information
August 20, 2009 at 2:42 pm

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maryann August 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Jon & Kate from the Reality TV show Jon & Kate plus 8 do this. They have a large family home where the kids live permanently and Jon & Kate switch off depending on whomever’s term it is with the kids. Although I don’t know if this is just for TV’s sake but I hope they stick with it.


2 Carolyn August 20, 2009 at 9:37 pm

You know, I had just recently heard they were doing this, but I didn’t think of it as a trend for divorced parents; just a situation of necessity because it’s *them* and their family. Could you imagine lugging those 8 kids from house to house every week? That would be crazy! This might be one situation where allowing the kids to stay in the home is actually *easier* for the parents. I hope they stick with it too.

PS – glad to see you here, Maryann!


3 Parker August 20, 2009 at 6:53 pm

I’m surprised you hadn’t heard of this before! This is a scenario I have seen regularly discussed on some email lists I am on. My husband and I are separating and this idea has come up as well, at least as a short-term solution. The problem is our case is pure and simple – money. We will barely be able to afford two homes, much less three! And sharing the ‘other’ home with him (which I know some couples actually do… though that seems even more absurd to me) is just not possible right now due to the emotions. But yeah, it is a definite reality check to think about how it feel for you, the parent, to do this switch – something that people too rarely think twice about asking their kids to do.


4 Carolyn August 20, 2009 at 9:43 pm

I’m surprised too, Parker! Does it seem like parent’s are catching on to this? Is it becoming a trend? I’ll try to check it out myself, but honestly I had never heard tell of it before. Talk about putting your kids first! I just wonder about the long term feasibility of this arrangement. If one parent finds themselves entering into another long term relationship, I doubt the new girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse would want to participate. I’m going to look more into this….


5 Parker August 26, 2009 at 4:54 pm

I totally agree with you about the long term feasibility. It seems to me like a good compromise for making the transition to mom and dad living in separate homes, letting kids visit those homes and get used to them, etc before giving up their own familiar house. But only the truly wealthy (and as you point out, the single!) could make it work long term.
I have seen this come up fairly frequently on the Berkeley Parents Network email list. There might be some mentions in the archives which are publicly available online at


6 Parker August 26, 2009 at 6:12 pm

One more, I found some of the postings on BPN. I see folks referring to this arrangement as ‘nesting’ and it sounds like some mediators in CA at least are recommending it. Interesting!


7 Carolyn August 26, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Yes, this is the thread I found. I like the term ‘nesting’. It sounds comfortable….for the kids anyway. :) Thanks so much for passing on the resource, Parker!


8 Carolyn August 26, 2009 at 9:32 pm

That’s a nice parenting network! I read through quite a bit there. What a wonderful resource to get feedback from other parents, grown children and psychologists alike! I found one thread that addressed this custody arrangement and it does sound like an appealing transition technique. One woman stated that even if it only works for 6 months it may help just get through the transition of having parents together and parents apart a little easier.

It does seem like the biggest prohibitive issue is the cost of maintaining three residences. I don’t know how divorced parents who are trying to get in touch with their ‘single selves’ and hopefully one day start dating and such could continue to share a residence and not have their own private space. But for an interim period it is a pretty selfless thing to do!


9 Rosalind Sedacca August 20, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Great point! Thanks for turning the tables and giving parents something to think about before moving ahead with destructive behaviors. Keep up the good work!
.-= Rosalind Sedacca´s last blog ..Consistent Co-parenting Makes Life Easier for Children after Divorce =-.


10 Carolyn August 20, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Rosalind! I’m glad you liked the post.


11 Tammy August 21, 2009 at 8:50 am

First – thanks for stopping by my blog, if you hadn’t I would’ve never found your lovely little corner of the blogoshere.

What an intriguing post.

As Parker mentioned, one of the differences is that this method involves paying for 3 residences and paying for 2 is generally a pretty significant hardship. But that’s from a completely practical standpoint. Kids don’t and shouldn’t have to deal with the practicality, they have to deal with the emotions. And you’re right – there aren’t a lot of parents who would willingly put themselves in the same situation – even if money were no object.
.-= Tammy´s last blog ..Pave Paradise =-.


12 Carolyn August 22, 2009 at 10:05 am

I agree. I don’t think many would ever choose it for themselves. But I’m looking into it. Maybe based on the whole Jon and Kate phenomenon, it will become a bit of a trend.


13 Amanda August 22, 2009 at 9:12 am

Hi just came over from SITS!

I think it’s a great idea, but money would probably be an issue in most cases. It would be good to see the kid’s write their own rules for the house too…something like…Mum & Dad have to do a half hour handover when leaving and entering the house….would make a good movie!!!

Great Blog!
.-= Amanda´s last blog ..Only 125 days till Christmas!!!!! =-.


14 Carolyn August 22, 2009 at 10:03 am

Hi Amanda! Thanks and yes, that would make quite the movie indeed. :)


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