Putting Your Child First in a Divorce: the Bird’s Nest Arrangement

A divorced couple with children often play a time consuming game of custody exchanges with the kids: two parents shuttle the children around to each of the divorced parents’ houses for a day or a weekend and then the kids repeat the process the next week. The children are uprooted often, not really feeling at home in either place. They have two of everything; one for each house. This constant transference of the children from one home to another is often one of the most noticeable changes of life for a child of divorce, but recently an alternative to what has been almost a hallmark of divorce has come to the forefront child custody agreements. That alternative is called a ‘bird’s nest’ or ‘birdnesting.’


What Is a ‘Bird’s Nest?’

A ‘bird’s nest’ is a type of co-parenting arrangement that has recently gained notoriety through several high profile celebrity cases as reported by The New York Post. Rather than having the children shuttle back and forth between the two divorced parent’s homes and having the children adapt to the needs of the parents, the children remain in the family home that they are accustomed to and the parents take turns moving in and out of the home. The ‘bird’s nest’ name comes from the comparison of birds coming and going to and from the nest while the young birds remain. During the time that the parents are not at home with the kids, they live in a separate dwelling. Each parent can have their own separate place to stay when they are not with their children or they can share and alternate with the other parent.


The Benefits of Keeping Your Kids in the Bird’s Nest

There are numerous benefits of having such a co-parenting arrangement. The main benefit of this type of arrangement is that it emphasizes the child’s needs above all else. A child in a bird’s nest situation doesn’t have to move from one home to another for custody exchanges. This means that the child will experience a level of stability in his or her life that would not be available otherwise. The child remains in the same home that they have always known, in the same room and in the same environment that they always have. There is no question of finding a new school for the child, nor having to make new friends or dropping out of social activities. The child’s life is left as intact as possible in a way that is not possible otherwise.


A bird’s nest custody arrangement also allows for a high degree of quality co-parenting time. Children that grow up with a strong relationship with both parents tend to do better in school, have more friends, higher self-esteem and lower rates of criminal activity. Divorce is a stressful time in a child’s life and increase the likelihood of negative outcomes in a child’s development.


The Downsides of a Bird’s Nest Arrangement

No custody arrangement is perfect and the bird’s nest arrangement is no exception. If the benefit of a bird’s nest arrangement is that it puts the child’s needs first then the greatest downside of such an arrangement is that it puts the parents’ needs last. The parents have to relocate their own lives as their custody agreement dictates. This means that the parents will have to bear the brunt of the divorce and have their lives disrupted to a greater degree than if they maintained their own separate residences.


An arrangement like this might also be more expensive than a traditional custody arrangement. In theory, up to three residences might have to be maintained in order to facilitate a bird’s nest arrangement: the residence of the child and the residences of the parents. Such a situation may not be realistic financially for a large majority of divorced couples.


Furthermore, committing to the bird’s nest arrangement may hinder the parents from forming lasting future relationships. The parents are the ones to bear the brunt of lifestyle changes in this arrangement and it may be hard to find a willing partner to put up with switching between residences as the custody agreement dictates.


Is This Custody Arrangement Right For Me?

The short answer is that it depends on your situation. There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to your unique set of circumstances, but there are indicators of when this type of custody arrangement may work out for the best and succeed in its execution. Consider the following factors when considering this type of arrangement:


  • It is financially feasible to maintain separate residences for the parents;
  • The divorce was amicable in nature;
  • Household chores and responsibilities can be shared equally;
  • Both parents live close by each other;
  • Both parents must be willing to agree to sharing a single house;
  • Both parents can communicate in a neutral and respectful manner; and
  • Both parents agree to put the child’s interests first above their own.


Partner With Skilled Attorneys

There is no way to know if a bird’s nest custody arrangement will work out ahead of time. Before this type of arrangement can be put into place, both parents must first agree that they would be amenable to such a type of arrangement, and even then the details must then be hammered out. After that it is still possible that such an arrangement does not work. After all, many divorces are not amicable in nature and divorced couples often have deep seated issues that are not resolved simply by separating.


A bird’s nest custody arrangement is a new and novel approach to rearing a child post-divorce. Consult with experienced family law attorneys who work towards the best outcome in your situation for both you and your child. Consult the skilled and experienced family law attorneys at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. They routinely handle cases in Mecklenburg County and nearby jurisdictions and have the necessary skills to help you and your children in a tough situation like divorce and child custody disputes. Contact us by phone or online to set up a consultation today.


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We recommend meeting with an attorney. While there is free legal help available for North Carolina residents from pro bono resources for civil matters, and public defenders for criminal cases, the best way to access tailored advice is to hire a lawyer.

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This is done on a case by case basis if you are involved in a family law, criminal, or professional disciplinary matter that involves another jurisdiction.



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