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“As marriages become troubled, couples often rely on old habits of dealing with differences that lead to fights rather than solutions. If those old habits didn’t lead to constructive solutions during the marriage, they will surely yield no better results during the divorce. In addition, people feeling anxious and fearful may resist pressure to move forward and resolve divorce related issues because of feeling unready, while their spouses may be impatient, seeing no reason why the divorce wasn’t over months ago. Bitter fights in the divorce courts often stem from differences such as these.

Unfortunately, both our court system and our culture at large encourage us to take action in divorces based on how we feel when we are at the bottom of the emotional roller coaster, when we are most gripped by anxiety, fear, grief, guilt and shame. After all, that’s when most people are moved to make the first call to a divorce lawyer. As a result, people are encourage to make shortsighted choices based on emotional reaction that do not take into account anyone’s long-tem best interests The resulting “bad divorces” harm everyone and serve no one well. They are very costly; the fail to plan intelligently for the future; and they inflict psychological scars on both the adults and the children.”

-- Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues, and Move on with Your Life. Pauline H. Tesler, M.A., J.D., & Peggy Thompson, Ph.D, 2006, Harper Collins

 

1) Nice idea, but isn’t it prohibitively expensive?

Instead of just Mom’s house and Dad’s house, there is another dwelling. That would seem to add some expense. But think about it; is there a need for three substantial suburban homes? In the normal divorce situation, when both Mom and Dad need to maintain a place where the kids can live part-time, there needs to be extra room. Both parents need to have space and equipment for kids’ entertainment, schoolwork, friends, pets, sleeping, eating, bathing and general privacy. Moreover, it’s common to feel a little competition to keep up with your ex in what you provide your kids.

None of this occurs when the kids stay home. Their parents can provide them with a lovely, leafy, suburban home or a bigger big-city flat that everyone shares equally. All of their kids’ things are right there and there is constant adult supervision. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad can each get by with a small house or apartment. It’s pretty comfortable – in fact, pleasant – spending time in a small, quiet place, when you also are able to live a much bigger, busier one on a regular basis.

2) Where did you get the idea of allowing the kids to stay while parents move?

If necessity is the mother of invention, desperation must be its father. As agonizing as is the end of a marriage, the idea of prolonged separations from your child are worse. We also both wondered where our ex might live, and with whom. There was a lot of guilt and apprehension. Having our daughter stay in her home seemed like such a logical consideration. We frankly wondered why more couples hadn’t tried the kids-stay approach.

3) Is there a name for this phenomenon?

There is a California couple, KatRyn Howell and Roger Bowerman, who have employed a similar method for the last five years, and they call it, “Birdnesting.” (There are links for articles on them below). It’s a catchy, one-word description, but we find the cuteness of the term diminishing of the experience and its emotional substance; so we choose not to use it. “Kids Stay” resonates with what actually happens and what it means.

4) What happens if one of you remarries or has other kids?

Trying to anticipate what the future will bring with other relationships is a challenge. I (Rob) actually did remarry and now also have two young sons. When I started dating my wife, I explained our arrangement. Shannon was very understanding and supportive. Even after we were married, I kept my promises and continued the schedule. On the nights I was with Whitney, Shannon stayed alone in our house. The whole process allowed Whitney to gradually get to know Shannon without much pressure to share me (or a bathroom). We didn’t have our kids until Whitney was off to college. If we had children earlier, I think that Whitney, who was by that time pretty mature, would have helped us make something work.

5) What’s the idea behind the website? Are you selling something?

Our original idea was to write a book about our experience. The more we thought about it, the more we reasoned that it would be a much better book with the shared experience of many more parents and kids. We hope that this site attracts the attention of other couples who are living this solution and who might want to collaborate. If you are one of those couples reading this, please contact us. We would love to sit down with you either in person, on the phone or through the site. It is through our shared experience that we might help thousands of kids (and their parents).

6) Are there legal impediments the “Kids Stay” concept?


 

 

 

 

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