As a divorced parent, you will always have a shared interest with the ex, the well-being of your children. Because divorcing dads realize the need to put their kids’ interest first, they try to make a difficult time as trauma-free as possible. The newest trend in custody, birds nest co-parenting, is designed to alleviate the stress and upheaval kids feel.

The child stays in the family home—the nest—and the parents go back and forth to take care of them. Children are not uprooted from their schools, neighborhood friends or routines, providing comforting stability in an anxious time.

Birds nest co-parenting can insulate children from much of the chaos of divorce, but it is not a practical option for every divorcing couple. For couples that have what it takes to make bird’s nesting a successful shared custody plan, it is quickly becoming the new best option out there.

Is Birds Nest Co-parenting Right for You?

The Birds Nest custody plan is not a one-size-fits-all arrangement. It requires a few criteria to work successfully. Here are a few questions to ask if you considering trying it:

1. Can you afford to maintain the family home and a separate residence?

In a typical divorce situation, each spouse has a residence, and the kids go back and forth for visitation. Bird nesting requires three households be maintained. The kids stay in the family house, so they have as little disruption as possible, with each spouse living part time in the family residence and the other time in their private spaces. This extra expense is not affordable for every family. Sit down and run the numbers to figure out if this is even financially feasible.

2. Are you and your ex able to co-parent civilly and put the best interests of your children first?

Bird’s nesting co-parenting requires frequent interaction with your ex-wife, to discuss household expenses and upkeep and in passing as you come and go from the same home. Privacy is diminished, since you will be living part time in a home where your ex will be living when you are not there. For a couple who is unable to put aside their emotions to do what’s best for the welfare of the kids, this arrangement could lead to a disastrous end. If you and the ex tend to emotionally sabotage one another, every time you communicate, this is not a viable option.

3. Can you and the ex agree on how to share household expenses, maintenance, and rules?

You must be able to come to an agreement about bills and upkeep for the family home. Who will pay what, the ground rules for the home, and what chores should be done by whom,  are all things to hash out. If you have ever had a roommate you can’t stand, you know the chaos that can spring from a shared living situation with no set boundaries. You also want to avoid possible fights down the road by setting clear expectations up front. The same thing goes for an agreed upon budget, who pays what and when to avoid stress over finances down the road. If the rules are well-defined and agreed to, things will run smoothly, for both parents and the kids.

4. Are both you and your ex-wife willing to remain in the same area after the divorce?

Bird’s nest co-parenting requires each parent live in the main home during their period of visitation.  If you are considering moving outside of the area, nesting will not work for you.

Disadvantages of Bird Nesting

Be aware of the cons to bird nesting. You may be well intentioned in your desire to ease your children’s burden, but if you are not prepared for what it entails it can make things worse. If you have a contentious relationship with your ex-spouse, then the frequent exposure in a shared living arrangement can aggravate communications.

If moving on is difficult for you,  then seeing your spouse while switching off, perhaps seeing their things in the bathroom or left overs in the fridge, can make things difficult. Bird Nesting can blur the line between being married and divorcing, for the kids, as well as for parents. This is an emotionally sensitive time, and some people require clear, strong boundaries to help with the transition. It’s important to explain to the kids in a nesting situation that sharing a “nest” does not mean mommy and daddy might get back together.

Nesting can get tricky when one, or both of you, are ready to date or maintain a serious relationship. Even if both spouses get along well enough to not be triggered by the situation, it can be a turn off to potential dates. Bird Nesting will work best when there are clear rules about significant others when in the main home. Many bird nesting arrangements come to an end when one party, or both, become seriously involved in a new relationship.

The bird’s nest plan extends the length of time that you are closely interacting with your ex-wife past the divorce proceedings.  If making a clean break and moving on is a priority then nesting is not an ideal arrangement.

Creating a Birds Nest Co-parenting Agreement

Have you heard the pros and cons to bird nesting and decided it could be right for you? There are a few things to hammer out in the custody agreement. To cover all your bases, be sure to address the following topics:

1. Settle mortgage issues.

You will want to decide who will retain the title or mortgage during the time you are nesting. 

Lay out who will make the mortgage payments.

Plan ahead for contingencies, such as what if one spouse loses a job or gets sick and cannot pay their part of the mortgage payment?

Decide when the nesting will come to an end and if/how the house will be sold and assets divided. Many bird nesters chose to sell the home when the youngest child is out of high school, but make the decision that works best for your family.

2. Draft a detailed plan and implantation schedule

There will be shared expenses, maintenance and living space with bird’s nest co-parenting. Figuring out how repairs will be handled, laying down house guidelines, and drafting a schedule for routine upkeep, can alleviate tension in post-divorce living. Realize, if you are a neat freak and you come home to your ex’s take out trash and dirty clothes strewn across the living room, it can lead to problems. Organizing a schedule ahead of time means avoiding strain later. Consider creating a shared “nest” account that is only for expenses related to the family home.

Since the house will be shared, does that mean doctor’s appointments, soccer practice, and dance rehearsal are also shared duties? Maybe which ever parent is in the home at the time takes on responsibility for the kids’ carpools. Make sure to include what happens on special occasions (birthdays, graduation, prom) and holidays.  When all parties,  including the kids, are clear on who does what and when everyone feels more at ease.

Be sure to have clear guidelines and boundaries. What are the rules when dad’s staying in the home. Can mom come over or is the house off limits? Can dad bring over a romantic partner? What are the sleepover rules for kids…and the co-parents?

Advantages to Bird Nesting

The nesting arrangement is beneficial for the kids. Parents, who are better equipped to cope, take on the responsibility of living between two residences so the children can have some stability while they adjust to their new reality.

Children feel secure when can keep the same routines and consistency as before the divorce.  When their bedroom, school, neighborhood friends and local after school activities remain the same kids stay more well-adjusted through the divorce process, and after.

The adults also experience benefits. Nesting settles issues of time sharing and even makes child support less of an issue or a non-issue altogether, since the home and the expenses will remain the same. Divorced dads in a bird’s nest co-parenting situation say they like knowing where their children are and that they have a good, safe roof over their heads.

Nesting pushes parents to work together to raise the children. Kids get to maintain a strong relationship with both parents, and both parents are on the same page when it comes to raising the kids. Their well-being is put front and center, and you can successfully start a new relationship with your ex as a co-parent, a relationship that lasts way beyond divorce.

Birds Nest Co-parenting: A Rising Trend

Not all parents are fit for a bird’s nest co-parenting arrangement. Those divorcing parents who can manage the emotional maturity required, and opt to go for it, are commendable. It is not every divorcing couple that can put their children’s needs above their discomfort or self-interest. As awareness of the benefits for kids rises so does the number of divorcing couples that want to try it as an alternative. And why not? Parents are divorcing, not the kids. It follows that the ones with the least ability to understand and cope should not bear the brunt of the uprooting because their parent’s relationship was unsuccessful. 

Have you considered alternative parenting plans? Tell us what worked for you in the comments below.


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(c) Can Stock Photo / stevebyland

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