There’s staying friends with your ex, and then there’s moving into the house next door.
Annie Muscato, 33, says she is giving her kids the best life possible, by living next door to their father – her ex-husband – and his girlfriend.
Despite going through a lengthy divorce, the pair are still best friends, and spend time together with their new partners – they enjoy campfires, and often eat as a group.
Annie, from Florida, USA, said: ‘Love is such a limited resource and this whole thing has just added so much more love to the kids’ lives.
‘Instead of two parent figures, they get four at once who all love them just the same.’
Annie and her ex-husband, Derek Muscato, 33, share two children, Ellie Jo, seven, and JP, five, but got divorced in 2019 after their relationship broke down. They made the decision to co-parent to make the transition as easy as possible for their kids.
While married, the pair had lived together on a farm. So, they split their land down the middle, and Derek built a new home on his half. Ellie Jo and JP are able to roam between their two homes the share the same land, and see both parents an equal amount of time.
When the exes went onto meet new partners, while Annie said it was difficult to adjust, it was made easier by the fact that Derek’s now girlfriend, Bess, had been a friend of the family’s for many years. Meanwhile, Annie is happily coupled up with new boyfriend, Chris.
Annie said: ‘We figured the kids are going between our houses, so the farm is one home for them, and it means they’re able to grow up seeing us every day which is unusual in divorce.
‘Just because our marriage was breaking down, it doesn’t mean our family has to. Just because we’re not in love anymore, that doesn’t mean there’s not love to give.’
Annie says the hardest part of the process was that there aren’t many examples of amicable, co-parenting situations like theirs.
‘The hardest part was that there was no model,’ she said. ‘We don’t know anyone who has divorced this way so a lot of what we’re doing is a learning process.
‘It was hard to really work together to come up with something so outside of the box they we could both work with.’
Annie does admit that it’s not always plain sailing.
‘I don’t want to romanticise it, but I wouldn’t change a thing,’ she said. ‘Of course, we have parenting disagreements, deciding on rules and boundaries but I think we handled it really well.
‘It’s brought me closer to the both of them since we’re able to co-parent – Bess is a teacher, so she knows and loves kids so seeing this situation through her eyes has been so positive.
‘It just feels like being friends with a neighbour – one day the weather was nice so I lit a fire and it was so nice to be able to shout over to Bess and the kids for them to join me.
‘We’ve put in so much hard work with where we are today, I’m sure things will change as the kids grow up, but we communicate and work together so well that we can prepare for those changes.’
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