Could a Bird’s Nest Custody arrangement work for you?

When a couple divorce, traditionally the children have to split time between their parents’ houses, either for half or part of the week. Bird’s Nest arrangements are growing in popularity and can be a sensible and successful solution; the children remain in the family home, and it is the parents who do the moving.

It’s already quite popular in the States, and if you’ve regularly watched Billions or The Affair, then you’ll have seen it in action.

How does birds nesting work?

Quite simply, the children stay put.  One bedroom, one set of toys, one X Box.  When it is time, one parent moves out and the other parent moves in. This can be the original family home, or a parent’s new home, depending on the settlement.

The living arrangements can work in several ways.  Often, the children remain in the family home, and then each parent either has their own smaller property, or stay with family or friends.  This works when one parent has more than a 50% share of time, when parents work away or have relocated.  Some couples even share the second property too.

What are the benefits?

  • Practical logistics. The children can stay close to school, family and friends, and still see both parents on a regular basis. After school activities, appointments and events are more straightforward to manage if everything is the same place.  After all, it is the adults who have decided to divorce, so they should be inconvenienced not the children!
  • Minimum Upheaval. In all divorce, the needs and wellbeing of the children is paramount. This arrangement brings consistency and stability which can avoid some of the upset and negative effects of divorce.
  • Easier Communication. Many parents reports that relations are much more cordial and harmonious under this arrangement. Co-parenting becomes more joined up and more effort has to be made to agree.
  • Financial benefits. In a traditional arrangement, the family home will be sold and two (smaller) family homes will be purchased, one for each parent.  This is often financially difficult for one or both parties.  This way, it’s possible for only one party to need to buy a smaller place to live, which does not need to accommodate the children.  Often flats or apartments will more than suffice.

What are the downsides

  • It requires grown ups. This solution is not for everyone, and although there are benefits, it doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Issues around privacy, family rules and boundaries can cause even more animosity than during the marriage.  It requires compromise and sacrifice on both sides which can be hard in the heat of a separation.
  • It can be short term. This arrangement can make it difficult to for either partner to start a new relationship, particularly if they want their new partner to be involved in family life. Also the children are not going to be at home forever, so thought does need to be given about how long the arrangement will continue for

How can you make it work?

  • Agree boundaries. Will one parent be gone by the time the other arrives?  Are there areas which to be kept private or off limits?
  • Be clear with the children. It can be a confusing arrangement.  They need to know that it does not mean you are getting back together.
  • Draw up rules. As with any relationship, things are easier if you are clear at the outset. Decide how chores and tasks are to be divided.  Who changes the beds, who washes the uniforms, who makes sure the fridge is full.
  • Review on a regular basis. Is it still working for both parties and what changes need to be made.

 Legal implications

  • The courts are highly unlikely to impose this solution so it will be up to you to work out the details.
  • You will need to think about the implications in any financial settlement and make provisions for what happens when the children grow up and the arrangement is no longer needed.

 What do you think?

Is this something that would work for you?  Do you wish you and your former partner had come to this arrangement, or do you think your children would?

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