For many parents going through divorce, the primary concern is how it will affect the children and how to help them adjust to a new normal. Just as many couples in California are exploring the benefits of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods for divorce, there are also alternate custody arrangement options for parents with these concerns.
In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has an attorney to assist with negotiating a settlement agreement, which all parties formally agree will not go to court. As an interest-based process, the focus is on negotiation rather than winning, and it is an ideal foundation to establish future co-parenting arrangements.
While the couple may work out many of the financial issues in divorce in this format, deciding on what is in the best interests of the child may include unorthodox co-parenting arrangements to lessen the instability and uncertainty that the children may feel. While bird nesting may work for some situations, it may also have drawbacks.
The bird nesting arrangement
In bird nesting, it is the parents that take turns staying in the family home while the children remain. In this way, the consistent home environment provides stability, while allowing the children to stay in the same schools with the same friends, neighbors and familiar locations. The parents may stay in an apartment when they are not in the home, or with friends or relatives.
There is a great deal of flexibility in this arrangement, which can be temporary while the children are adjusting and the parents are getting used to living independently, or more permanent.
Pros and cons of bird nesting
As with any arrangement, bird nesting will work in some but not all situations. Some advantages of bird nesting include:
- saving the couple money after divorce, as they would only be maintaining a small second space along with the family home
- putting off difficult final decisions that usually accompany divorce, such as selling the home or having to uproot the children
- transitioning both children and parents to life after divorce
On the negative side, bird nesting may be more:
- expensive if paying for two residences
- unstable for the parents who remain in limbo, still sharing an intimate space with their ex and unable to move on
- conflicting, especially if one or both parents is unable to respectfully maintain boundaries or keep from expressing frustration with the other parent
For Sonoma County residents, it is important to know your options when deciding what parenting plan best serves your needs and the needs of your children.