Divorce can be highly disruptive for children. Parents who want to minimize this disruption have several options for doing so. One option that is becoming increasingly common is birdnesting.
In this arrangement, children stay in one central home, or the “nest.” Rather than the kids moving between houses after divorce, parents rotate between the nest and their own homes. Birdnesting has several benefits, but it is not suitable for every family.
When birdnesting can be successful
The primary benefit of a nesting situation is that it can allow children to retain some stability during an otherwise upsetting time. Rather than moving out of a move, packing overnight bags and adjusting to a fluctuating schedule, kids stay put. They have one room, one address and one neighborhood.
This approach can work for families where parents still respect each other. Parents will need to share the same space, albeit at different times; they typically continue to share household duties; they must refrain from interfering in the other person’s parenting time.
If parents understand this and agree to it, birdnesting can work well.
It can also be successful when there is the space to make it work. For instance, if the central home has separate living spaces like a guest house or another unit in the same apartment building, nesting could make the most logistical sense.
If parents maintain individual homes outside the nest, it can still work as long as parents can afford such an arrangement.
When it may not work
Despite the appealing elements of nesting, it does not always work.
For instance, if parents cannot define or respect boundaries, nesting could ultimately be more confusing for children. As this article points out, critics argue that the arrangement could shelter kids from reality and create confusion about their parents’ relationship.
There is also the potential that it could be more expensive. Unless parents have an arrangement where they share the off-duty home, they will have three different houses. This means three mortgages or rent payments, three sets of utilities and three spaces to furnish and maintain, which could be financially unmanageable.
Nesting is just one approach to sharing custody after divorce or separation. To determine if it is right for your case, you can discuss it and other options with the other parent, your lawyer and any custody professionals involved.