I am considering entering into a long-term nesting agreement with my husband because we have three kids in high school and neither of us can afford to buy the other out or otherwise stay in this town. Two of the kids are seniors and one is a sophomore. Three years seems like an eternity but both our parents live in town so we each have somewhere else to stay during our off times. We are thinking of doing week on week off with the change over happening at dinner time on Sundays.
Our mediator is encouraging this but my friends keep telling me not to do it. If I agree, are there rules you can recommend I put in place? And what would my options be if the arrangement is just impossible to live with?
While I tend to agree with your friends here, I also understand wanting to do the right thing by your children and uprooting them all at the end of their school careers seems very unfair. Nesting, even in short durations, can create many problems and lead to higher levels of discord so if you are going to do it, it is very important to establish clear rules at the outset, to be on the same page in your household including parenting rules, and to have a mechanism in place if either of you decides you can no longer do it.
The biggest issue I see is with new partners. The rule really needs to be that no new partners are allowed in the nesting home. This eliminates complaints of finding a new partner’s underwear in the former marital bedroom — something no one ever wants to find and the surest way to torpedo the nesting arrangement.
The second rule relates to cleanliness of the home. Both parties have to commit to stripping the bed and washing the sheets before the other takes over. Likewise, there cannot be piles of laundry, dirty dishes and general clutter waiting for the other parent to take over and tidy up. This is where you need to involve the children in the rules. They are old enough to understand that you are entering into this arrangement because it will allow them to stay in the same town/house until graduation. But, if they want this, they have to pitch in at home and keep their clutter in their rooms, help with the dishes and do their laundry.
The other critical piece is an escape clause. If one of you decides you just cannot take it any longer, you need the ability to give notice to the other that nesting is over. That notice should trigger a return to mediation to try to figure out what to do from there. It may be a new cost-sharing measure gets implemented — whoever stays pays more — with a slightly unequal division of equity upon a sale once the youngest graduates. Where there is a will, there is a way.