Divorce is hard on families. While it is, of course, emotionally difficult for the couple getting divorced, it is often just as upsetting for children, no matter their age or how long their parents have been together. Though divorcing is typically in the entire family's best interests, helping their children through the process causes parents a lot of anxiety. There are many different methods for helping your children deal with divorce, but finding the right one for your family can be challenging. A relatively new technique that is gaining popularity and which many parents have found success in is "birdnesting" or "nesting."
Keep reading to learn what birdnesting is and the potential benefits for families going through a divorce.
What Is "Birdnesting" or "Nesting"?
Birdnesting is a co-parenting method in which the children stay in the family home while their parents take turns staying with them. When the parents are not with the children in the family home, they may stay with friends or relatives or have a rented apartment. In some cases, the parents also share a rented apartment instead of each parent having their own residence in addition to the family home.
There are different ways to adopt this method. While it is typically recommended that bird nesting be for a short period (such as during the divorce process or for a short period after the divorce is finalized), some families have found success with the method in the long term.
The Potential Benefits of Birdnesting During & Post-Divorce
The goal of birdnesting or nesting is to create a stable environment for children during and post-divorce. Because divorce is so disrupting to a child's day-to-day life, birdnesting means that they get the benefit of being able to stay in their family home with no disruption to their living arrangements. This gives them time and a safe space to adapt to the major changes happening in their life. In this way, birdnesting can reduce the emotional burden of dealing with their parents' divorce and moving house simultaneously.
Birdnesting can also be easier for parents as well. While moving back and forth yourself does pose challenges, when it comes to developing a strong co-parenting relationship, birdnesting can help. Because the children stay put, their routines can very easily stay the same. For example, morning routines, bedtime routines, and chores all stay the same, no matter which parent they are with. It can also make keeping track of your children's schedules, homework, and extracurricular activities easier.
This co-parenting technique can also help parents who need extra time to establish a new residence. Depending on the conditions surrounding the divorce, one parent may have to move out of the family home quickly or may struggle to find adequate housing with a permanent space for the children during their visitation. Birdnesting allows parents more time to stabilize their own living situation post-divorce while still prioritizing their children's needs.
When Birdnesting Doesn't Work
While birdnesting has a lot of potential benefits, it is not for everyone. Not every family will be able to practice this method, and it may be inappropriate for some situations. For example, a divorcing couple may have to sell their family home as part of the divorce process, making the nesting method logistically impossible. It can also be expensive if both parents need to rent a separate apartment outside of the family home, requiring them to maintain three residences while also going through a divorce. Even for a relatively wealthy couple, this can be an insurmountable financial barrier to birdnesting.
The nesting technique requires the parents to be on amicable terms, and you will have to continue sharing space with your former spouse. Even when not in the home simultaneously, parents who are birdnesting will continue to share household responsibilities. This can be a major point of contention between parents and make the divorce process even more difficult. Furthermore, in cases where there is already a lot of fighting or tension between parents, this method can ultimately create even more stress and anxiety for the entire family.
Alternative Methods to Birdnesting
There are a lot of different co-parenting methods, and one is not better than the other. Because every family has its own unique needs, they will need to work to find the co-parenting plan that works best for them. It's also worth noting that your version of a co-parenting method will not necessarily look the same as another family using the same method. Just as with birdnesting, parents should work together to tailor their co-parenting plan to meet their family's needs best.
Alternating Custody Schedules
Depending on the custody split you have agreed to with your co-parent (or been awarded by the courts), your schedule may look different than another family with the same split. For example, some couples who share 50/50 custody have their children spending one week at a time with each parent. Others subscribe to a 2/2/3 split where the child moves back and forth between their parents every couple of days.
Meanwhile, some families do better when the children spend the school week with one parent and the weekend with the other parent, despite having 50/50 custody. In these cases, the children often spend extended time with the weekend parent during the summer to make up the time they missed during the school year. At the end of the day, the goal of your co-parenting schedule and technique is to provide your children with the supportive, stable environment they need to thrive.
In some ways, parallel parenting is the polar opposite of birdnesting. Where birdnesting requires constant communication and extreme collaboration between parents, parallel parenting allows parents to disengage from each other almost entirely. With this co-parenting method, the parents live separately, and the children go back and forth. Furthermore, the parents establish their own household rules and routines for when the children are with them, regardless of what the other parent does in their home. The parents do not consult each other on day-to-day matters and generally only communicate regarding larger issues, like healthcare, educational decisions, etc.
Parallel parenting works well for families where the parents struggle to communicate or get along with one another. Though it may seem counterintuitive, parallel parenting can encourage and create stability and consistency for the children and reduces animosity and contention between parents.
Do Not Compare Yourself to Other Families
No matter what co-parenting method you and your former spouse adopt, it is important not to compare yourself to other families. What works for your neighbor, cousin, or friend may not work for you, and there is nothing wrong with that. You should also be prepared to adjust or change your method if you find that it is not working for your family. What may sound good initially does not always work well in practice. This is not a failure, and you should not force yourself to stick with a co-parenting method that doesn't work.
If you are struggling with co-parenting issues that are tied to your custody order, support order, or court-approved parenting plan, it is also worth reaching out to an experienced lawyer for guidance. In some cases, modifying the original order may be necessary, and your attorney can help you with this process. Furthermore, if you are in a situation where your co-parent is not adhering to a court order, your lawyer can also help you with the enforcement process.
To discuss your case with a skilled attorney, contact our law firm online and schedule a consultation.