One parenting trend for divorced couples with minor children is called "bird-nesting." The name is a reference to the male and female birds of some species that collaborate to create nests and tend to their young.
What that translates to for the human species is a child-centric system of parenting that seeks to avoid the endless shuffle of children between their divorced parents' homes. Instead of weekly tussles over the soccer shorts left at Dad's or the spelling book in the back of Mom's minivan, the children — and their accouterments — remain in the same home while their parents split time there with them.
According to The Telegraph, bird's nest parenting probably began approximately 18 years ago. At that time, a Virginia family court judge issued a ruling wherein the small children of a divorced couple would continue to live in the same home and the parents rotate staying with them on a preset schedule.
Arrangement may be better for the kids
There's no doubt that children need stability and security to develop the skill sets they will need to navigate independently in the world. This proposal, while still rather unusual, provides them with the structure they need to accept the many changes a divorce brings to the family unit. As quoted in an article published in Psychology Today, the parents are similar to "birds alighting and departing the nest."
The atypical arrangement may be the better choice for co-parents rather than for those where either mom or dad retains custody and the other parent simply exercises visitation with their offspring.
Could it work for you and your ex?
Bird-nesting is not ideal for all couples, and typically is an arrangement that is voluntary between the parents. It is temporary by design, either put in place while the divorce is mediated or litigated, while the house is listed for sale on the market or until the children reach a predetermined age.
Certainly, there can be drawbacks, not the least of which is remaining financially yoked to a former partner after a split. There can also be privacy issues involved that make bird-nesting uncomfortable for one or both parents. If either party has moved on romantically with another partner, the agreement may no longer be feasible.
However, parents who are dedicated to co-parenting and who are able to remain civil in their interactions with one another may decide this is the best decision for them and their minor children. In cases where a child's physical or developmental disabilities require specific housing requirements may find it a better choice than taking on the expense of modifying two residences to be handicap-accessible. Kids on the autism spectrum who are especially affected by frequent scheduling changes may take great comfort in the knowledge that they keep the same routine in their childhood home.
Where do the parents live in their off-time?
Some may share a house with a friend or rent a small one-bedroom apartment. Others may seek temporary refuge with extended family members while they figure out their new direction in life. But the sticking point often for families who are willing to try bird-nesting for their kids is the added expense of maintaining three separate residences.
Obviously, couples lacking the wherewithal to finance the upkeep on three properties would not be a good match for this type of arrangement. For wealthier families who own a second home, an agreement can be reached where the parents also share that home in their off-parenting hours.
How can I make this work for my family?
If you feel that this might be the solution you're searching for, it's vital to establish clear boundaries from the beginning. Your New Jersey family law attorney can help you hash out an agreement and reach accord.