No matter how you spin it, getting divorced is tough when you have kids. Even if the decision to divorce is the best decision for the family, the beginning stages of separation can be difficult for children. Research shows that the best way to avoid risking the emotional well-being of kids going through a divorce is to keep the process amicable and as low conflict as possible.
Parents going through divorce try to find the right custodial balance that works for them and their children. Some parents rightfully worry about how the separation will impact the kids who have lived as a family unit in the same house all their lives. One option is somewhat unusual but over the past five years has become increasingly utilized – “birdnesting” – as described in this article.
The family home for all stays with the kids and the parents rotate in and out of an apartment
In a typical divorce, the parents each obtain a new residence, and one parent may retain the marital home as their primary residence. In “birdnesting,” the idea is that the children should not have to shuffle between houses but instead stay constantly in the marital home, providing minimal disruption to their everyday lives. The parents rotate in and out on a schedule. Usually, both parents agree to share an apartment for when they rotate out.
The principal advantage of birdnesting is that it reduces the stress on the children in the transition from one family unit to two separate households. It provides children with reassurance to see how their parents can still maintain close contact even though they do not live together all the time. It gives kids the practice of the rhythm of divorce without the immediate change to a new physical location.
Birdnesting should not be seen as a long-term plan. Children cannot expect the parents to continue to serve their needs in the marital house. It inverts the power dynamic in the parent-child relationship. It also gives kids false hope that their parents will reconcile. On a practical level, it creates a strange situation for the parents who are sharing an apartment and wondering what is happening when the other parent is in the apartment.
Children and parents both need to accept the changed reality of separate homes and separate lives. While birdnesting can smooth this transition, it can also make it harder by pushing an image of post-divorce life that is not real. The longer it goes on, the more likely something will clash between the parents and the issues that led to divorce will surface in a not very pretty way, which in turn will affect the children.
Birdnesting usually works for parents who get along very well and have low conflict personalities. As one might imagine, this describes a small number of divorcing couples. Therefore, you should seriously evaluate if you and your soon to be former spouse truly get along very well and have low conflict personalities before negotiating a birdnesting arrangement.
Should you need the advice of a divorce attorney or have questions or concerns about your situation, know that we are here to help and discuss those issues with you.