Jenna Fischer, the actress from St. Louis perhaps most famous for her role on the hit show The Office, has a new show that just debuted called Splitting Up Together. The premise is that she and her husband separate and while considering divorce, rather than move into separate homes remain in one house to make it easier for the children. While this may seem like just a clever way to start a sitcom, it is actually an increasingly utilized custody arrangement even after divorce, called “bird’s nest” custody.
The idea is simple: the marital home has been the nurturing place for the children, and rather than upset the “nest” or create two new nests, the children should remain in their comfortable nest to have minimal disruption as the parents transition from married to divorced.
Who will tend the nest? The parents will rotate taking turns as the custodian, and will reside in the nest while doing so. Unlike the sitcom, most couples do not both reside in the nest at the same time, but rather have an alternate residence for non-custodial time. Because of the cost factor, some couples choose to rotate use of the same alternate residence.
The advantage of bird nesting is that it provides constancy and consistency for the children – they do not have to have two houses, two bedrooms, two sets of clothes, two separate lives. The parents do the moving back and forth between households.
Can bird nesting really work?
It certainly is not for every couple. First, the two parents must have the ability to work well together and the ability to respect the other’s space and stuff, since they will share the marital bedroom on an alternating basis. Second, the two parents must not be moving right into new relationships, as that would inevitably bring the children into close contact with someone new in the nest. Third, it may be financially challenging, as it requires paying for the marital home and one or two outside residences.
Even when it works, bird nesting should be considered only a temporary situation to ease transitioning to the reality of divorce. The real risk of this arrangement is that it delays the children’s acceptance that their parents will not reside in the same house together and that at some point everyone needs to move forward in separate homes. The longer the nesting continues, the more likely it creates real problems for the children with regard to separation and adjustment.
Bird’s nesting may make good television, but it is less likely to make for a happy custodial arrangement for most couples, even though for a few could be worth considering.
If you have any questions about bird’s nest custody, contact us – we can help.