What Is “Bird-Nesting” In Child Custody? The Definition, Pros, And Cons

Nestlings never leave their nest while the parents take turns alighting and departing. This is the basic concept of “bird-nesting” in joint child custody. Instead of shuttling children back and forth between parents’ homes, they remain in one home while the parents take turns moving in and out based on the parenting plan.

This Bird’s nest plan for co-parenting has gained much praise in the recent decade for being a child-centered middle ground. However, not all families will find this arrangement suitable. Here’s what you need to know about bird’s nest child custody.

Sample Bird’s Nest Co-Parenting Arrangements

A basic bird’s nest arrangement works like this:

  1. When it’s your turn to spend time with the kids, you stay in the family home with them while your former spouse moves out.
  2. When your parenting time is up, your former spouse comes to the family home for their turn in parenting, and it will be your turn to move out.
  3. The rotation continues according to the parenting plan.

Where does a parent stay when they have to leave the nest? You and your ex-spouse can decide whether to rent one additional dwelling and take turns staying in it during your ‘off-parenting’ days, or rent separate dwellings from each other.

Would a bird-nesting arrangement be more expensive than traditional post-divorce settings? This depends on several factors. In many cases, maintaining two separate households (as in a traditional arrangement) can be more expensive than simply retaining the family home for the children while renting another residence. Children in a bird’s nest do not have to be shuttled back and forth, nor do they need two sets of clothes and belongings.

Of course, it would cost more if you and your spouse chose to have two separate residences. And you’ll want to find another living space near your family home so that you won’t have to spend as much on your transportation.

Is bird-nesting custody ordered by the court? A vast majority of bird’s nest plans are voluntarily agreed on by the parents, then entered to court by way of the child custody arrangement. As of now, we have rarely heard of judges ordering a bird’s nest plan. A judge may order this arrangement if, for example, the traditional moving between parents’ homes would be too much of a burden for the children, or as a temporary situation until minors come of age. Special needs kids might be well served with this arrangement.

Related Topic: Property Division in Colorado

Advantages Of Bird-Nesting

Financial Advantages

  • It can be more cost-effective, especially if both parents share a rented dwelling close to the family home.
    • Renting one additional residence is less expensive than maintaining two separate households.
    • Letting the children stay in the home they grew up in means they won’t need two separate sets of belongings.
    • Kids don’t need to move back and forth between homes, so this cost is eliminated.
  • There is less financial complication when the divorced couple decides what to do with the marital home.

Emotional Advantages

  • Children experience minimal disruption after their parents’ divorce.
    • Their routines, daily commutes, and social circles can stay the same as before.
    • They don’t have to keep traveling between parents’ homes.
    • They don’t have to acclimate to a new environment.
  • Each parent can continue to live in the marital home, even if it is only partly. This may satisfy an adult emotional need to stay in their established home.

Disadvantages Of Bird-Nesting

Financial Disadvantages

  • This arrangement may be cost-prohibitive if the parents have to live separately from each other outside of the family home.
  • Disputes may arise over expenses in the shared family home. For example, who pays the bills? Who takes care of home repairs? Who can deduct the real estate taxes and mortgage interest on their 1040?

Emotional Disadvantages

  • Maintaining a shared family home may blur the lines of marital separation. Instead of starting clean as unmarried individuals, the former spouses may find their relationship more complicated.
  • Privacy can be a tricky issue, especially if one ex-spouse brings a new partner to the family home.
  • The arrangement can quickly fall apart if one parent lacks the discipline and commitment in following the parenting plan. A worst-case scenario would be that the children are left waiting for a parent to arrive, or they have to witness disputes when neither parent is willing to leave the house.

Related Topic: Mediation in Colorado

Will Bird’s Nest Co-Parenting Work For You?

Bird-nesting takes open communication, careful planning, cordiality, and commitment. Not all divorced couples can maintain this. However, if you and your former spouse prioritize your children first and foremost, you may be able to work together for successful bird-nesting.

We at Goldman Law can help you envision a bird’s nest setting as it may apply to your family. We are also ready to advise you on the legalities of this co-parenting arrangement. You can speak directly with one of our experienced family law attorneys. Call us today.