I have three small kids and am going to divorce. Luckily, I am in friendly terms with my ex spouse, and we are making arrangements for our life practicalities.

Planning for our family life ahead, we are wondering whether it is better to leave the kids in their home and have us parents alternate in sleeping with them (say every 1-2 weeks, for a 1-2 week stretch) or instead having the kids move back and forth from dad's new home to mom's (and kids') home, say every 4-5 days.

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    By "ex-spouse", do you mean the current spouse that you are going to divorce? Have you agreed to a divorce? Is either of you ever likely to move to a different school district? – Warren Dew Jan 11 '17 at 6:53
  • @WarrenDew Yes, the ex-spouse would be the current spouse I am divorcing. We are in very friendly terms and wishing to finalize the divorce. We will continue to live in the same shool district. – Giuseppe Biondi-Zoccai Jan 11 '17 at 7:56
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    One thing to consider is the schedule. You mention 4-5 days, etc. in my experience, coming up with a stable schedule is paramount. Either full weeks or something like a MT-WTh with alternating weekends provide predictable schedules for everyone. – Geoff Hutchison Jan 11 '17 at 13:49
  • @GeoffHutchison I was thinking on 1 week each, or 2 weeks each, full time... – Giuseppe Biondi-Zoccai Jan 11 '17 at 16:06
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    It doesn't matter. Don't overthink it too much. I feel confident in saying regardless of what you choose to do, their lives will be affected, and regardless of what you do, the kids will be alright. To some extent, it's more important to do what will make you and your ex-spouse happy. Happy parents have happy kids. Kids can adjust, they are really good at it, in fact. They won't care about where they are located, they will want your love and attention--the rest is just details. Good luck. – kindredChords Jan 12 '17 at 16:47

I think that as a practical matter it would be easier on the kids to stay in the same home, but I think it would be a strain on the parents and not necessarily effective in the long term.

Sharing a living space will introduce stress that, even if not the reason for the divorce now, could make it complicated to stay on good terms. Sometimes you won't clean house as well as your spouse would like or the reverse; one of you may want to improve the house and the other not want to share the expense; or most likely, one of you may remarry and that new spouse want to build a life of their own not revolving around your children.

It's certainly reasonable to try what you suggest - just have a plan in place for when it no longer suits.


Speaking as a child of divorce, I can tell you: it was inconvenient to keep my belongings in two houses, but it was never alienating.

When you and your former spouse split time with the kids, you'll undoubtedly be using the remaining halves of your weeks to pursue other personal activities. Your time is necessarily structured such that even when you dedicate yourself fully to being engaged and active parents, you'll still have plenty of off-days to spend on yourselves and your newly reestablished bachelorhood. This is one of the less celebrated opportunities in an equitable and amicable divorce.

If you and your former spouse leave your old joint household intact, where do you suppose you're going to host all of your personal time? Each of you will likely establish other domiciles and other partnerships, and soon, that will be where you're keeping an entire half of yourself that your children will not be invited to come see. Your old, joint-household will remain in stasis, with neither of you taking full ownership. Your children will be able to consolidate their possessions, but they will not have the opportunity to see the model of a consolidated life.

When your parents separate, I believe that you learn more quickly than other children that they have lives and personhoods that extend far beyond their roles as parental figures. But this is not a bad thing. I observed, in my childhood, the differences in the identities of my mother and my father as they bloomed separately from each other. I lived among all the fruits of their respective lives; I lived among their decorating decisions, I lived among the artifacts of their hobbies, I lived among the work materials they brought home. When they remarried, I lived among my new family.

It was not always easy to manage the logistics of living in two homes, but they were two homes that I lived in, not just the estate of a long-gone marriage, attended by two parents clocking in for their shifts between the personal time that they kept to themselves, off in their private apartments.

My parents made good decisions. They understood, like you do, that it would have been harder for their progeny if their lives had to be too radically split in half. They made the choice to get new homes in nearby neighborhoods (only a twenty minute walk from each other), so that neither would ever be rendered inaccessible to the schools, friendships, or activities that the other supported. I certainly encourage you to make similar arrangements, if you can, and I exalt you for remaining on excellent terms with your former spouse. But I cannot recommend that you contrive, in the way that you've outlined, to keep the household that you once had together. I think that such an arrangement will prove impractical, and I do not think that it will be as nurturing as you think.

  • Great to also get the perspective of the child - usually you only hear from the parents. I also very much like your point that even for the children, keeping them in one home is not necessarily better than having them come to the parents. – sleske Aug 4 '17 at 9:52

We choose two homes within close proximity. Our daughter goes to the same school all the time, but sleeps at either home depending on need. Usually it it is a full week, but if one adult needs to change things, it is no big deal. It's a 5 minute walk between homes and we all share keys. My ex would not enter without permission, but can enter my home anytime he deems necessary. I did marry the man. I do trust him even though we choose to not be married. My husband also has keys to my exes home. We parent this way. When our 16 year old is older, we'll return the keys.

  • "I did marry the man. I do trust him even though we choose to not be married. " Just wanted to say it's great that you can see your ex in that light - many ex-couples cannot. – sleske Aug 4 '17 at 9:51

You don't say who you want the situation to be better for.

I think it would be better for the kids if they could stay in their home and the parents moved around. That would reduce the number of adjustments they'd have to make, at a time when they are going to be having to make major adjustments anyway. Of course, it would be best for the kids if you could find a way to stay together, at least until they are no longer small, but it sounds like that's not in the cards.

That said, it might be more convenient for the parents to have the kids move around, so there may be a bit of a tradeoff between what's good for the kids and what's good for the parents.

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