Divorced Parents Split Time in Same Home

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May 30, 2006— -- When Al and Annie Garcia decided to split after 20 years of marriage, they were left with a difficult but familiar question: What about the kids?

They came up with a novel plan to keep the dream house they had bought together, but then take turns staying there with the children.

"I wouldn't want to have the traditional thing where I would live here and the kids would come visit me," Al Garcia said. "They wouldn't like that, and I wouldn't like that for the kids."

"I think it's their birthright to have as much stability as possible, and I think staying in the house provided at least as much as we could give," Annie Garcia said.

Since their separation four years ago, Annie, a flight attendant, and Al, a sales executive, have been alternating nights at the family house where their kids were raised.

When they're not on "parent duty," they shuttle back and forth to a condominium they share just three miles away. Marriage and parenting experts have nicknamed the unusual arrangement "bird nesting."

The Garcias said that their arrangement had helped to provide stability for their children, but the couple have had to adapt to the hectic, revolving-door lifestyle.

"I'm taking off. Going on a two-day trip," Annie said, on a video diary she and her family made about their situation. "Al should be over in about 15 minutes."

"Annie was supposed to be in at 6 and she got delayed because of the weather," Al said in his video diary. "I'll be checking out, and she'll be checking in."

Al said that the key to making it work was "open channels of communication."

"You have to have respect for each other," he said. "We continue to work at it because of the kids. And I to this day, I think that's what makes this thing succeed."

There are still plenty of frustrations, however, from family finances to chores to negotiating the changing of the guard.

"When we transitioned from one house to the other we learned very early on, that that is a point of tension because it was hurtful. It was painful and it, you know, anger can bubble up," Annie said. "Ten years ago, I'd come home from a trip and there wouldn't be anything in the refrigerator. It's still happening 10 years later, and I'm divorced from the man."

The Garcias have had to swallow things that many divorced couples would have difficulty enduring. For example, they sleep in the same room and bed on different nights.

"I do date but what the other person wants to do as far as social or intimate relationships is their business," Al said.

"This is much better than living in an unhappy relationship," Annie said. "This is actually much easier. I think of it as finishing a job that I started."

"Good Morning America" Parenting Contributor Ann Pleshette Murphy originally reported this story.

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