Q: I often work out of town and sometimes have to spend the night away from home. To keep the kids’ schedule consistent, my ex and I have always agreed that he will stay at my home with the kids if I have to go away during my scheduled parenting time (we share the kids equally). He has recently remarried and now he wants to bring his new wife to my home when he spends the night. I don’t think it’s appropriate for them to be at my home. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: It’s very good ex-etiquette for you both to step in when the other needs help, but before we go any further, we have to point out those red flags waving at your house.

The parenting plan you describe is a twist on “nesting.” When families “nest,” the kids stay put and the parents move in and out when it’s their parenting time.

Although we are sure that after this article runs we will get many letters from people who have successfully navigated nesting, it’s been our experience that it can work for a while, but once one of the parents gets a new partner, the new partner does not want to go back and forth — especially if they also have kids.

Your take is a little different, you (Mom) don’t want the new wife joining your ex (Dad) at your house — and different as it is, we think it’s time to consider another arrangement. Having Dad fill in may have worked when you needed help for a few hours, but you really can’t ask a man to leave his wife at home while he goes to his ex’s home to spend the night with the kids.

Don’t worry. It’s not uncommon to tweak a custody agreement as time goes by, and there will be many reasons you’ll need to.

The kids get older, and what worked when they were, say, 5, no longer works when they’re 11 or 12. Extracurricular activities can change a child’s schedule or one of the parents may get a new job and their available hours may change. And, of course, once you comfortably settle into that custody arrangement, lo and behold, the kids hit high school and you have to change things again.

The key during all this is for parents to stay open and continue to communicate. When faced with change, rather than dig in your heels, thoughtfully analyze how the change will affect the children.

Referring to the Ten Rules of Good Ex-Etiquette (www.bonusfamilies.com) will help, particularly rule 10: “Compromise whenever possible.”

Another helpful hint? Don’t ask your ex to do something you wouldn’t do.

Dr. Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, are the authors of “Exetiquette for Parents.”

— McClatchy-Tribune


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