A "PLEASANTLY divorced" couple has shared an insight into their shared life on a farm with their new partners.
Annie Muscato, 33, and her ex-husband Derek often share family dinners as well as spending holidays together.
For the first six months of their separation, the couple took turns staying in an apartment so their children, Ellie Jo, seven, and JP, five, could stay in the family home.
After eventually dividing their land, Derek, who works in medical research, built a home on the farm and now lives just a quarter of a mile away.
For three years, Annie lived in a six-wheel travel trailer on the land and Derek stayed in the family home with the children while building his new place.
Derek moved into his new house in January 2023 with his new partner, 28-year-old school teacher Bess, while Annie moved back into the family home with her boyfriend, Chris, 37, an engineer.
Annie said: “We didn’t want the kids to be packing bags and shuffling around.
“We decided we’d both stay here and essentially be neighbors.”
Annie and Derek have a set schedule so the kids alternate who they stay with each week while both parents still get to see them every day.
Annie explained: "Whoever doesn’t have the kids will go over to say goodnight."
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The family all spent holidays such as Christmas and Father’s Day together and tend to have dinner all together once a week.
Annie said: “We have a group chat with Derek and his girlfriend and my boyfriend.
“Derek and I have become more friends again in the last year.
“He’s dating someone wonderful."
She described the positive relationships between the two couples.
Annie explained: "Derek and my boyfriend really get along really well.
“His girlfriend and I will get our nails done with my daughter and have girls' days.”
Annie, who is finishing her PhD in leadership, from Gainesville, Florida, said: “We’ve all seen the terrible divorce, we didn’t want that for our kids.
“We made an intentional choice to do it differently, we were making an effort to have a really collaborative, pleasant divorce.
“We both had to really commit to it."
She described her ex-husband as "a good friend" and credited their bond with helping them have an amicable divorce.
Annie and Derek had been together for nine years and married for seven when Annie asked for a divorce in April 2019, explaining that they had "outgrown each other."
She said: “Derek set aside his ego, for a lot of people there would be bitter feelings but he took the opportunity to grow himself.”
Derek said: "At first I felt heartbroken and lost but then, through therapy and talking with friends and family, came to the conclusion that this was the best and healthiest thing for us, and our kids."
They continued going to counseling for the first six months of the separation in order to maintain a healthy relationship as co-parents.
Annie said: "We took our vows over again when we took off our rings, we promised to always respect one another and support each other, it's still relevant.
“The promises we made were still in our lives.”
Annie reflected on the hard work and commitment she and her ex-husband put into their new dynamic.
She said: “This has been like a really challenging team-building activity.
“We might not have been great at marriage but we were really good at this, we communicate better now than when we were married.
“Now we are in the easy part, I’m really proud of us, I recognize it takes two people.”
Annie added: “Divorce means the end of a marriage but it doesn’t mean the end of a family.
“People say ‘broken family’ but ours is still complete, love can be expanded not divided.”
Derek said: "We have two kids, and we wanted to model a healthy relationship for them and make it the least stressful as possible for them, and us.
"Our therapist told us that nesting was our best option for the kids, to help them cope with us not living in the same house anymore, and in time, it was the least stressful option for me as well.
"It’s great to be across the farm from her house because now our kids can visit either of us when they’re at the opposite parent’s house.
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"It’s definitely a healthier relationship than we had when we were married.
"We’ve been friends since seventh grade, and we’re much better at being friends than married."
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