When you are involved in a divorce and there are minor children, one of your worst fears, as a non-custodial parent, is that your relationship with your children will suffer. Even if your relationship with your ex is strong, or he/she encourages access, you may choose to stay close, so that your kids have regular and meaningful contact. The question, though, can be “just how close?”
Take, for example, the arrangement a couple in Brooklyn worked out. They had a three-unit brownstone and decided to keep the apartment, with one parent living in the garden apartment, the other on the top floor, and a tenant in between. Both parents and children acknowledged that it was initially a difficult arrangement, as the adults struggled to maintain some level of privacy. Ultimately, though, they’ve found that it works very well. The kids love that their stuff is close by, regardless of where they are. The parents appreciate that they don’t have to pack a suitcase and drop kids off somewhere, or worry about when they will be picked up. They also find it convenient when one of the parents has a work emergency or other unanticipated event.
Another approach that has been tried with mixed success is the concept of “bird-nesting,” where the children live in the same home and the parents alternate visits with the children. Many who have tried it find that it presents a lot of the problems associated with dropping off and picking up children—things get forgotten, times get mixed up, etc.
A compromise that has worked for many parents is locating within a few blocks or a couple miles of each other, allowing children to walk between the homes, or making a trip to pick up or drop off less of a burden on everyone.