Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law

Keeping a nest: Not just for birds anymore

Getting divorced may be one of the biggest challenges you face in life, especially if you have children. Like most good parents in California, your main concerns probably have a lot to do with your children's best interests, in particular, helping them maintain a sense of normalcy as much as possible as you move forward to a new lifestyle together. The thought of uprooting your kids and making them shuttle back and forth between two new homes (maybe a new school district as well) has you worried.

There's a rising trend that involves a unique parenting arrangement that may be a viable option for someone in your circumstances. Its origin dates back to the 1970s; however, there is a current resurgence of interest in this type of co-parenting after divorce. Some have used the term bird nesting to describe this creative option. Like most post divorce parenting plans, there are pros and cons you'll want to consider before determining if it's right for your family.

Weigh the benefits against potential negatives

If your children have been living in the same house for most or all of their lives, selling it just because you're getting divorced may wind up causing more upheaval in their young lives than necessary. The following information explains the bird nesting process and provides possible pros and cons that may help you decide whether or not you should give it a try:

  • You can customize the basic system: Bird nesting is a general term that describes a co-parenting plan where children of divorced parents continue living in the same house their parents shared with them during marriage. If you try this method, you and your former spouse will take turns living with your kids. You can discuss and agree upon how long your stays will last as well as a myriad of other issues that are best decided before implementing a definite plan.
  • You won't have the stress of selling your house: This is a major plus for most people as dealing with the sale of your home as you are coming out of divorce proceedings can tip your stress scales into overload. If you agree to a bird nesting plan, there's no need to sell your home.
  • Added expense of additional living arrangements: A downside to that equation might be the expenses you incur by having to secure separate living quarters for the times you are not staying with your children.
  • Children thrive with routine and structure: Data shows most kids fare best when they have ample time with both parents following divorce and as little change in lifestyle as possible. If they remain in their same house, it's a lot easier to keep the same structure and routines to which they're already accustomed.

Keep in mind you'd not only be seeing your former spouse on a regular basis, you'd also still be seeing his or her personal items, such as toiletries, clothing, etc., because it's likely some things would remain at the house full time. Also, if either of you enters into a new romantic relationship, it may pose an obstacle to your bird nesting arrangement. You can talk to others who have successfully implemented similar plans to gain some pointers on how to make it work.

Some parents ask experienced California family law attorneys to review their prospective plans before seeking the court's approval. This a great means of support when developing a parenting plan or if a particular problem arises down the line.

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