Out In The Open

'A new way of doing it,' how a divorced couple with children became next door neighbours

Piya visits the homes of Brandie Weikle and Derek DeCloet, a former couple who decided to live beside each other for their kids after getting divorced.
The DeCloet-Weikle family outside their Toronto two homes. From left to right: Brandie, Derek, Amy, Alister and Cameron. (Lianne Phillipson)

After twelve years of marriage — and with two young kids — Brandie Weikle & Derek DeCloet found a way to do divorce that worked for their family. Derek moved out and then moved in next door.

"From the get go, we were determined to make things as normal as we possibly could for the kids," says DeCloet.

The family spends every Christmas morning together. It's also not unusual for Derek to be at Brandie's for breakfast, and the two parents will attend their sons' sports games together.

"We are still very much enjoying raising the kids together," said Weikle.

The kids see some additional pros to having two houses side-by-side; the ability to hop from one backyard to the other is ideal for games of tag, and even though sometimes it can be hectic forgetting something at the other person's house, crossing the driveway to get from one house to the other is not so bad.

"I guess it's a new way of doing it," says their eldest son, 13-year-old Cameron. "It's normal to us."

Add Amy into the picture — Derek's new wife — and the DeCloet-Weikle collective is a regular modern family.

Brandie has made it part of her mission to normalize the not-so-normal nature on modern divorce and family through her website The New Family. Through the site, she started The 1000 Family Project in hopes to find 1000 different types of families to normalize the difference between any given family.

"There's a lot of default messages in the media that your family should look like one thing...if your family doesn't look like that you end up feeling kind of excluded." 

What's clear from the DeCloet-Weikle family is that divorce or unconventional family life doesn't have to painful for everyone involved, and even after divorce, it's still possible to be one big happy family.