Divorce is so traumatic for children that many parents remain in an unhappy relationship just to keep from upsetting their children’s lives. The birdnesting strategy offers a means to minimize the disruption.
Some experts recommend that a bird’s nest arrangement be used only as a temporary transition while others find it to be a viable long term custody option. Let’s see how it works in Virginia.
How Birdnesting Works
When parents use a bird’s nest arrangement for custody, the child stays in one place—ideally, the home they’ve lived in for years. The child remains in the same school, plays with the same friends, and enjoys familiar surroundings.
The parents take turns moving in and out. This arrangement is in many ways the opposite of traditional custody and visitation plans where a child moves back and forth between parents’ homes.
In most cases, parents who employ the bird’s nest strategy share physical and legal custody of the child. When the parents are not staying in the family home with the child, they live in a home of their own, or an apartment shared with the other parent.
Long Term Challenges
Birdnesting can provide a stable, comforting base during the transition to life after divorce. Maintaining a bird’s nest over the long term can prove very difficult, however, and could be detrimental to the child’s development.
Not only do parents have to cooperate about every aspect of caring for a shared home, they also have to devise a plan to pay the mortgage, utilities and other expenses. It can be helpful to have an attorney draw up an agreement to spell out each parent’s obligations.
The biggest problem with the bird’s nest arrangement, however, could be the expectations it raises in the child’s mind. Since the home life is so similar, children in a bird’s nest generally expect their parents to reunite so that life will continue on as before. When they fail to get back together, the child can feel like they have failed in some way and that they caused the problem between the parents.
Demonstration of Cooperation
As a transitional tool, birdnesting demonstrates to children that it is possible to cooperate even in difficult situations. Parents who take turns sharing the home and dividing up chores have the opportunity to model excellent teamwork skills. They show children that they can work together to reach a common goal even if they dislike or disagree with someone.
Of course, birdnesting can also backfire. If the shared arrangements lead to painful fights with the child stuck in the middle, the nest is not really helping to smooth the transition. That would be the signal that it is time to establish two separate households and allow the child to find a new position in each home.
An Attorney Can Help Negotiate and Manage Birdnesting Arrangements
If you want to adopt a birdnesting strategy after your divorce, it is a good idea to establish firm expectations up front. An experienced family law attorney at DiPietro Law Group PLLC can help you review options and establish an agreement that covers key issues such as mortgage payments, parenting schedules, and responsibilities for cleaning and home repairs. To talk to us about setting up a birdnesting arrangement during or after your divorce, give us a call or contact us online.