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The Birds Nest Theory: An Alternative Child Custody Arrangement

African father son and daughter listening music dancing at home

The classic custody arrangement following divorce has the children splitting time roughly evenly between the two parents, either alternating weeks or trading off weeks and weekends. Recently, especially as child psychology has evolved, other types of arrangements have arisen. A new type of child custody known as “Bird’s Nest” custody has been gaining traction over the last few years. Continue reading for an exploration of the so-called bird’s nest theory, and contact a savvy Englewood child custody attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.

What is Bird’s Nest Custody?

The concept behind bird’s nest custody (or birdnesting) arises from observations in the animal kingdom. Among numerous bird species, the male and female work together to build the nest, trade off foraging for food, and generally cooperate in chick care until the birds leave the nest to fly for themselves. The custody arrangement focuses on the shared work of the two parents rather than the part about pushing the birds out of the nest in hopes that they fly.

Traditional custody arrangements see the kids alternating between multiple homes, traveling back and forth to have parenting time with each parent. Birdnesting switches the base assumption that the kids will be the parties to travel. In a bird’s nest arrangement, the kids stay in one home and the parents switch off living in the family home with the children. The idea is to promote stability for the children after the divorce by limiting the jarring effect of uprooting the kids into a new home or being forced to adapt to having two separate homes.

Although bird’s nest custody is gaining traction, it remains relatively uncommon. Courts are quite unlikely to order a bird’s nest arrangement unless the two parents specifically request it. The parents will need to establish a specific, agreed-upon schedule for each party’s parenting time and deal with living accommodations for each parent outside of the preexisting family home.

Pros and Cons of Bird’s Nest Custody

Birdnesting can be very helpful for reducing the jarring effect a divorce can have on children. Children often feel like their entire lives have been upended after a divorce, and having to navigate two different post-divorce homes can make the transition even more challenging. Birdnesting allows the kids to stay in the same home and continue with a schedule more similar to what they were used to, allowing them to process the transition in a more palatable manner. Kids also have an easier time maintaining the same schedule, not having to worry about dealing with school and extracurricular interruptions caused by traveling from one location to another.

Birdnesting can also make communication between parents easier. They can chat as they come and go during transitions, for example. Even if the parents prefer to avoid in-person interaction, it may be much easier to leave a note on the refrigerator than it is to call or text an ex-spouse.

Bird’s nest custody is certainly not for all parents. Bird’s nest custody is only really an option if the parents are committed to co-parenting and more or less equal shared custody. If one parent is the primary custodian, or if the parents simply can’t agree to co-parent, then a bird’s nest is unlikely to work out.

Moreover, birdnesting can lead to significant additional living expenses. Chances are, the parents will not be sharing the same second home for non-parenting time. That means that the parents will need to maintain three homes instead of two, which can be prohibitively expensive.

Birdnesting can also create additional complications when it comes to dating and moving onto new relationships. New partners may find the arrangement uncomfortable, not to mention that a future live-in partner would also have to move between two homes (or tolerate their partner living outside of the house half the time).

Talk to your family law attorney about bird’s nest custody and other nontraditional custody arrangements to discuss the setup most advantageous for you and your family.

Dedicated Service and Excellent Representation for Your New Jersey Child Custody Matters

If you’re considering divorce in New Jersey or dealing with child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at 201-440-6300.

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