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Is a “birdnesting” arrangement right for your family?

If you’ve been exploring various shared child custody options, you may have come across the one called “birdnesting” or some variation of that name. While birdnesting isn’t typically a long-term custody arrangement, it can be a temporary solution for separated or recently divorced parents.

It can be a good option if one or both of you is still looking for a new home if you’re in the process of selling your home or aren’t in a financial position to rent or buy one yet. Some parents use it if they want to wait until the end of the school year to change their kids’ routines or if one of them is going to be relocating soon.

What does birdnesting involve?

Basically, the kids stay in the family home full-time and parents take turns living there with them on whatever schedule they choose. Obviously, for this to be feasible, you both need to have somewhere to go when you’re not home. That often means staying with a family member or friend or even getting a short-term rental and alternate using that.

For birdnesting to work, co-parents need at least an amicable relationship. Even though you won’t be inhabiting the same space, you’ll need to have communication. You’ll also need to work out how you’ll divide expenses for maintaining the home and maybe splitting the costs of lodging, It won’t work if one of you is constantly leaving a mess or repair issues for the other to deal with.

Will birdnesting work for your kids?

It will if you’re clear with them that this is just a temporary situation and explain the practical aspects and if the two of you can handle the arrangement maturely. Older kids can understand this better than younger ones, but no matter how old your kids are, it’s important not to get their hopes up that you’re trying to work things out if you’re not. 

Birdnesting is meant to provide minimal disruption in children’s lives. However, if it’s just going to cause more fighting, it’s better not to do it. If you’re considering this option, it may be a good idea to draw up an agreement regarding shared expenses, parenting time and other issues to clarify expectations. Your legal advisors can help with this.