More and more couples are experimenting with birdnesting after divorce.  They believe their children could be spared at least a fraction of the upset they’d otherwise feel if they can stay in the same house  with their parents taking it in turns to join them.

The reason birdnesting is increasingly being viewed as a beneficial option is the children involved in a divorce can remain in a home that they are already familiar with, keep their friends and continue to attend the same schools and participate in the same groups and activities. 

The children are also spared the stress of constantly moving between two home environments.

What is birdnesting?

Birdnesting gets its name from the way birds keep their chicks safe in their nest until they are at a stage when they can leave the nest. 

If a nesting agreement is made during a divorce, the children of the relationship remain in their home and their parents will move in and out to take care of them according to a pre-agreed schedule.

If nesting is of interest to you or your client, we’d always suggest you seek independent advice from someone who understands the advantages and disadvantages of nesting.  They’ll help you assess whether nesting is likely to work for the couple and, more importantly, for the children.

Why are couples experimenting with birdnesting after divorce?

As we’ve said, the main benefit is the children are able to stay in their family home and in familiar surroundings.  This offers them far greater level of stability and consistency reinforced by the fact the children can see their parents actively working together to do what is best for everyone involved.

From the parents’ perspective both can remain actively involved in their children’s lives and upbringing.

However, there are also several disadvantages to bear in mind.

The arrangement can sometimes prove a little confusing for the children.  This can unsettle them because they may not fully understand why their parents are alternating between the family home and their own homes.

Similarly, each parent will need another property to live in when they are not in the family home.  This is obviously not an ideal situation, particularly given the current cost of living crisis.  Some couples are making ends meet a little easier by sharing one other property but that still means they will still need to pay for two homes.

The arrangement requires a large amount of trust between the parties.  Given this will not already be a traumatic time for all concerned.  Trust is not always easily achieved.  Also, even when things start well, arguments can often arise in the future.  This could quickly erode any trust built early on.

The question of what happens in the future could have even more serious repercussion on the parents.  What happens if one meets someone else?  What happens if they move in or marry someone else?  Would they be able to bring their new partner into the shared family home and/or allow them to spend time with the children?

Regardless of whether either parent does meet someone else, nesting is highly unlikely to provide a long term solution.  At some point one or both will  want to move on and that could lead to an emotional setback for the children.

What are the key issues to consider when you discuss nesting?

If you are considering nesting, you need to ask yourself three very pointed questions:

1. Are you likely to continue to argue?

If you and your former spouse have a history of arguing, nesting is probably not a good option.  Exposing your children to even more arguing will be hugely detrimental to your children which will likely cause your nesting agreement to fail as a result.

2. Are you likely to enter into new relationships

Entering into a new relationship will completely alter the dynamic of your arrangement.  Unless you have made a definite decision about potential new relationships, this could prove very difficult to manage particularly if your children do not like the new person either party introduces.

3. Are you willing to share information?

If you and your ex have difficulty sharing information about the children’s health, schooling and other interests, there could be serious repercussions in terms of the children’s education, health and welfare.  

Witnessing an additional breakdown in communications and the conflict this could well cause is also likely to increase the children’s stress and anxiety.

If you are considering entering into a nesting arrangement, you should always write the terms into a binding legal agreement both parties have agreed and can refer back to.  If you would like to have that conversation or just talk through the possibility of nesting after your divorce, please contact our highly experienced family barristers.

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