For many divorcing parents, keeping the kids in the family home is top priority.
And with good reason.
For some, the marital residence may be the only home the kids have ever known. And depending on the age of the children, change may not be something they're excited about or you think they can handle.
As a parent going through a divorce, you might feel that keeping your kids in the family home is in the child best interest because it will provide some stability during this time of intense transition. So you think setting up a nesting plan may be the way to go.
But before you proceed, keep in mind there are a number of additional issues you'll need to deal with when making this type of bird nesting divorce arrangement.
That's why it's so important to work with an experienced divorce mediator.
One who can not only help you determine if this type of plan is right for you, but also help you understand and come to agreement on all of the other issues directly related to birdnesting custody or nesting plans for divorce.
Nest Plans for Divorce: The Basics
Determining if a birdnesting plan will work in your case (and if it's a viable long-term solution) requires some thought. And the guiding hand of an experienced mediator to help you come to agreement on all the related issues that come with these types of arrangements.
What are Nest Plans?
A nesting plan, also known as "bird nest parenting for divorce" are a type of co-parenting custody arrangement whereby divorced or separated parents keep the marital family home and the kids reside there 100% of the time.
The divorcing couple then rents a one-bedroom apartment or other additional space for the two of them to share after they're divorced and it's not their parenting time.
How Does a Bird Nest Parenting Plan Work?
When it's Parent A's time with the children, they move into the marital home and Parent B lives in the rented space until it's their parenting time with the children.
When it's time for Parent B to be with the kids, they move into the marital home and Parent A now stays in the rented space.
The pattern continues with the kids remaining in the marital home the entire time and each divorced parent rotating in and out during their parenting time.
It May Seem Simple But...
Even if you and your spouse are rotating in and out of your former marital home, and co parenting in the same house, you still need a parenting plan.
Birdnesting plans by themselves are not a substitute for a parenting plan or time sharing arrangement.
For example, you will still need to determine after you're divorced which one of you will be in the house on which days, weekends and holidays and who will pay for what. Among many other things.
Nesting Plans: The Pros
There are a number of positive reasons why couples who are parents may wish to consider a birdnesting plan.
Maintaining the marital home and simply renting a small studio apartment or one bedroom place may reduce your post-marital housing costs.
These typically represent the single largest expense each of you will incur after you are divorced.
There's also the related costs to having a second place. Bills such as cable TV or utilities, etc. which can also be reduced when renting a smaller place.
It may also eliminate the need to make a property division decision right away such as should we keep or sell the marital home. Or where should one or both of us live? As anyone who has bought a home or rented an apartment knows, housing markets can be irrational. And the timing for buying, selling, or renting a new place of residence, may not be ideal at the time you need it to be!
What if you were counting on making a significant profit from the sale of the former marital residence to use as a down payment on a new place? But the market is in a tailspin? Or rents are out of control due to an increase in demand?
Making such a life-altering decision in the throes of divorce may have unintended financial consequences. And if you're not thinking clearly can hurt you financially in both the short and the long run.
The housing market may also be down at the time you're getting a divorce so selling right away may not be in either or your financial best interests.
And if one of you wants to keep the home but needs to refinance it into your name only, your lender may require a period of time after your divorce whereby you're receiving alimony to count it towards your income requirements.
An experienced divorce mediator would sit down with both of you, work through a detailed budget of your marital and post-marital expenses, along with anything related to this nesting arrangement and help you determine if this type of arrangement makes sense from a financial perspective.
As a parent, your concern first and foremost is (or should be) the well-being of your children. Not upsetting their apple cart and moving them out of possibly the only house they've ever known can be a main driver for considering a nesting arrangement.
This is a common topic of discussion our clients have with our divorce coach.
Younger children tend to take moving a bit easier than older children. They see it as, "Oh cool, I get two rooms and get to pick out two sets of sheets and have two sets of toys - one at Mom's house and one at Dad's house!"
On the flip side, teenagers may resent the fact that you're taking attention away from them with your divorce and away from their friends. Keeping them in the marital home and having their friends see both their parents around from time to time may not embarrass them as much after you're divorced. Darn kids!
Finally maybe you're simply not ready to go. So being able to live in the marital home for even a part of the time may also satisfy an emotional need you have as an adult.
What about that other residence? Who pays for that and how are shared expenses handled?
Do you each label your milk and food in the fridge so the other doesn't eat it?
And if you both sign the lease and share in the rent payment but one of you doesn't pay, will the other get stuck paying it so their credit isn't damaged?
Divorce is supposed to be an uncoupling of lives.
Of course couples with kids will always be connected as co-parents. But these arrangements can sometimes have unintended emotional consequences as well.
Given that you're sharing the marital home and rotating in and out, who gets to sleep in the primary bedroom? Do you share the bedroom and each sleep on your side of the bed when you're there but alone?
How will you feel when walking around the place knowing that you aren't sharing the home as husband and wife?
Then there's the issue of privacy.
What happens to the items you left in your shared space while you're not there?
Perhaps you've started another relationship and a card from your new significant other is left on the "other" kitchen counter. Nothing insidious, you just simply left it out. How is the discovering spouse going to feel about that?
Then of course there are the children.
Will this get confusing for them? They stay and watch each parent come and go?
Finally what happens when one of you no longer wants to continue this arrangement? This typically happens when one of you finds a new relationship and the new paramour isn't too crazy about you sharing a space with your ex.
All of these emotional issues are critical to examine when considering such a plan. Remember - you're no good to your kids if you can't be good to yourself.
How to Know if Bird's Nest Parenting in Divorce is Right for You
As you've now learned, whether or not to engage in a bird nesting divorce arrangement is a big decision for parents.
And one with lots of moving parts.
By working with an experienced divorce mediator, you and your spouse will be able to determine if such a plan is right for you. And if so, together with your mediator, negotiate, come to agreement and draft a nesting plan that works for both of you and your kids.
Why be forced to accept a child custody arrangement dictated by a judge in family court when you can create an agreement that's best for your kids now and into the future instead?
If you want to make decisions as parents, not as litigants, do what’s best for your kids and mediate your divorce with Equitable Mediation.
Joe Dillon, MBA is a professional divorce mediator and founder of Equitable Mediation Services. Joe is passionate about helping couples avoid the destruction of attorney-driven litigation and specializes in helping couples resolve the issues required for divorce -peacefully, fairly and cost-effectively. When he’s not mediating, you can find him exercising, cooking, and watching Cubs baseball.