MIAMI, Florida. If you are getting divorced and have children, most experts recommend that parents keep their divorce as low-conflict as possible. While divorce can be tough for children, high-conflict divorce can be the most difficult to navigate, especially if children find their interests in the cross-hairs. Having to spend significant time away from one parent can be challenging enough, but having to move to a new home in a new neighborhood can take an already stressful situation and make it even more difficult for children to navigate. Children who have to move may already be struggling with making sense of their changed family situation and then may face the additional stress of trying to make friends in a new school or new neighborhood.
One way that some families are navigating these challenges is by “bird nesting” or “nesting.” This is a kind of custody arrangement where children remain in the family home, while the parents live in separate residences and come live with the children during their parenting time. In a bird nesting arrangement, some families choose to continue living together in the family home. For families that can afford it, both parents may choose to keep separate apartments or homes while the children continue to reside in the main family home. In most cases, the parents will rent a studio or a small apartment and share both the apartment and the family home.
According to NBC News, with nesting, the positives are that the parents’ lives are disrupted, not the children. However, most families only nest for a short period of time, while the parents work out their child custody arrangement or make a final decision about where the children will ultimately live. Another positive of nesting is that children can remain in the same school and keep the same friends.
There are some risks of nesting, though. For example, children may falsely believe that their parents might reconcile. When choosing nesting as an option, parents need to keep the channels of communication with their children open. Sharing a family home, even if both parents won’t share it at the same time, also creates the risk that there could be added conflict. Parents who choose this arrangement will need to consider how the home will be cleaned, how the home will be maintained, and what the rules will be for guests, or new significant others. Psychology Today notes that bird nesting arrangements work best when both parents live close to one another and when the divorce isn’t high-conflict.
Whether you choose a bird nesting custody arrangement or a more traditional arrangement in which children will move between parental homes, it is important to maintain structure for the children. Don’t change too many things at once. Bedtimes, mealtimes, and schools, as much as possible, should remain unchanged.