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Is 'bird nesting' a custody option worth considering?

For many children of divorce, one of the most stressful things they have to deal with is moving back and forth between their parents' homes, particularly if their parents have fairly equal physical custody. Even if their parents try to ensure that they have clothing, electronics and/or treasured toys in both residences, they may still feel like they don't have one true home to call their own.

Increasingly, some parents are choosing an alternative custody arrangement often referred to as "bird nesting." It involves letting the children live full time in the family home they know while the parents alternate moving between that home and their own residences -- perhaps an apartment or a family member or friend's home. The name is derived from the practice by many bird parents of leaving their babies in the nest while they go out to find food, returning to the nest to feed them.

Obviously, not every couple can afford this arrangement -- particularly if it involves each parent getting his or her own separate place while still maintaining the "family home." However, for those who can manage it financially, it can reduce the amount of upheaval in their children's lives.

Beyond being able to manage it financially, co-parents have to be able to get along at least well enough to regularly communicate on some level about the logistics of the situation. Further, they're also still sharing a home in a sense, so that can be difficult if they still have considerable residual animosity.

A bird nesting arrangement is often a temporary one while the kids are still young and/or until one parent remarries. However, it can ease the transition of divorce for kids. If you are considering it, talk with your family law attorney about how best to draw up a parenting plan to help make it work successfully.

Source: The New York Times, "After Divorce, Giving Our Kids Custody of the Home," Beth Behrendt, May 30, 2017

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