If you haven’t heard of birdnesting yet, chances are you may soon. It’s one of the latest trends in post-divorce child custody arrangements. Simply put, instead of having the children shuttled from one parent’s house to the other’s, the children stay in the marital home and the parents do the shuttling.
The whole idea behind birdnesting is to give the children a sense of security – after all it’s not their fault that their parents’ marriage didn’t work out.
Although not common – at least not yet – it seems to be catching on in some circles. A handful of celebrities, including exes Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin and Mad Men” actress Anne Dudek and her ex Matthew Heller, have arrangements akin to birdnesting.
As you might imagine there are a number of pros and cons to the practice – both emotional and financial. For the concept to work, being able to maintain a good relationship with your ex is paramount. If you can’t stand the sight of each other, or you’re constantly bickering with each other in front of the children, then birdnesting isn’t likely for you.
Birdnesting also might not work if the parents live any significant distance from where the child is residing. Particularly if their workplace is far away.
Another consideration is cost. If the parents are continually moving to and from the marital home, there is a good chance that three homes will be needed: the marital home where the child continues to live, mom’s new home and dad’s new home.
Questions that also need answering include:
- Who pays the mortgage?
- Who owns the home being used for birdnesting?
- How long will the arrangement continue? For example, will it end once the child reaches 16? 18? or moves out?
- Once the child does leave the nest, who gets to keep the home, or will it be sold?
- Who handles household expenses, i.e. food, utilities, repairs, etc.
- How will decisions relating to household expenses be handled?
- Can you both agree to a set of rules to live by? For example, who’s responsible for cleaning, lawn maintenance or being at the home if a repairman must come out?
The details of the arrangement are something that need to be worked out ahead of time and put in writing as part of the formal divorce and custody arrangements. Parents should sit down with a Certified Divorce Financial Planner to figure out if they have the financial resources to successfully move forward.
In some birdnesting cases, one parent remains in the marital home with the child and the other parent moves in and out regularly. While this might work if the parent coming and going has his or her own room, it could prove to be confusing for the children and become awkward in a number of ways.
Birdnesting also might make it difficult for ex-spouses to move on with their lives and develop new relationships. It would take a very understanding new boyfriend or girlfriend to accept the arrangement.
While birdnesting might sound like a good way to allow children to adjust to their parents’ divorce, parents also must decide if it’s an appropriate solution for them and their own well-being.
Alan Frisher is a Licensed Financial Advisor as well as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. His goal is to help clients understand their financial situation and to come to the best resolution based on their individual situation. For more information, contact Alan at (321) 242-7526 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.