Caring Counselors | Aggressive Litigators Free Initial Consultation

“Bird's Nest” Custody: Is it Right for Your Family?

Bird's Nest Custody

If you're contemplating a divorce and have children, no doubt the issue of custody is on your mind. You may have heard horror stories from friends and families of children passed back and forth between parents' homes like a football, never quite settling in, often acting out. You don't want that for your children—but what is the alternative?

One option is what's called “bird's nest” custody. In bird's nest custody, the children don't move back and forth between parents' homes. Instead, the children remain in one home, and the parents take turns living in the “nest” with them. When it's not one parent's turn to spend time with the kids, he or she lives elsewhere.

Advantages of Bird's Nest Custody

Obviously, the biggest advantage of bird's nest custody is the children have stability in their living situation. They have one bedroom, not a room at each parent's home that somehow never feels fully like their own. They never have to worry if they're sleeping at Mommy's or Daddy's house tonight, or if they left their soccer uniform at the “other” house. If a neighborhood friend is having a sleepover, children don't have to miss out because they're staying with a parent who lives a half-hour away.

In some ways, bird's nest custody is easier on parents, too. For example, if information needs to be exchanged, a note can be left on the bulletin board or calendar in the primary home. Also, this type of custody arrangement offers a physical reminder to be present and engaged with the children: when you're in the “nest,” you put down your cell phone and focus on the kids.

Because there are a lot of logistical details to bird's nest custody, it's something parents need to agree to; courts will not typically order this arrangement otherwise. The advantage of this is that parents who do choose it are typically motivated to make it work.

Disadvantages of Bird's Nest Custody

What bird's nest custody offers in terms of stability and predictability for kids, it takes away from parents to a certain degree. Parents have to get used to living in different places, depending on the day (though this is probably less disruptive to adults than to children).

Perhaps the bigger issue is the expense of the arrangement, since presumably each parent will want their own home in addition to the “nest.” Thus, two parents are paying for three households, instead of two. This factor alone may make bird's nest custody impractical for many families.

Bird's nest custody can also pose a challenge for parents wishing to move on to new relationships. If you want to live with a new partner, they need to either be willing to move back and forth with you (assuming the custody order allows this) or be willing to live alone for days at a time when you're in the nest with your kids.

Making Bird's Nest Custody Work

Bird's nest custody is not for everyone. But assuming that your finances permit, and you and your ex are willing to make some sacrifices for the sake of your kids, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Decide in advance, and put in writing, who will be responsible for what chores, expenses, household maintenance, groceries, etc.
  • Maintain boundaries. Each parent should have some space in the house that is off-limits to the other.
  • Plan for your “other” home to be as geographically close to the nest as possible.
  • Agree on and establish parenting rules to be followed in the nest.
  • Remember that the rules that apply to making a parenting plan work still apply in this situation.
  • Before beginning, make sure you and your ex get along well enough to be up to this challenge. If you and your ex are constantly bickering over the management of the shared home, and your kids are exposed to that conflict, are they really better off?

To learn more about bird's nest custody, and whether it could be right for your family, we invite you to contact Shaffer & Associates online or call (619) 595-3167 today to schedule a free consultation.

Categories: Child Custody

San Diego Bar AssociationSection of Family LawCalifornia State Bar Family Law American Bar Association Avvo Clients' Choice 2014