What is birdnesting after divorce and how does it work?

Birdnesting is a parenting arrangement that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It involves parents sharing a single family home and taking turns living with their children. However, instead of the children moving between two separate homes, the parents are the ones who move in and out of the family home. This parenting arrangement can be challenging, but it is often seen as a way to prioritise the needs of the children and minimise the disruption that divorce or separation can cause. In this article, we will explore the co-parenting phenomenon of birdnesting and how it works in practice.

What is birdnesting?

Birdnesting has its roots in the natural world. Many species of birds build nests to raise their young, and they take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks. This shared responsibility ensures the survival of the offspring and promotes the wellbeing of the parents.

So instead of the children moving back and forth between two homes, the parents are the ones who move in and out of the family home. This arrangement can be temporary or long-term, depending on the needs of the family. If this is something you think could benefit your family, before jumping in feet first, you should set out the regime in a nesting agreement or shared parenting plan.

How does birdnesting work in practice?

Birdnesting can be a challenge, and it requires a significant amount of cooperation and communication between the parents, which may be beyond those going through a particularly fractious divorce. Here are some key factors to consider when setting up a birdnesting arrangement:

  • Prepare a shared parenting plan, outlining the logistics of the arrangement. It should include details such as who will live in the family home and when, how expenses will be shared, and how conflicts will be resolved.
  • Good communication is essential for a successful birdnesting arrangement. Parents must be able to communicate openly and honestly about their needs and concerns in order to address any issues that arise during the arrangement.
  • Birdnesting requires a significant amount of flexibility on the part of both parents. Each parent must be willing to adjust their schedule, routines, and work commitments in order to accommodate the needs of the other parent and the children.
  • Birdnesting should have a clear end date in mind. This could be when the children reach a certain age or when the parents feel that they are ready to move on to separate living arrangements.

What are the benefits of birdnesting?

Birdnesting has several benefits for families going through divorce or separation, which includes:

  • Minimising the disruption that children may experience during the transition. Instead of having to adjust to living in two different homes with different routines and expectations, the children can stay in the family home environment while their parents take turns living with them.
  • Help parents maintain a sense of stability and control during a difficult time. By sharing the responsibility of living in the family home, both parents can remain connected to their children and involved in their daily lives. This can be especially important for parents who may feel like they are losing control or influence over their children’s lives during the divorce or separation process.
  • Allows children to remain in their schools, which is especially important for those children sitting important exams. It also enables both parents to be involved in the children’s schooling.
  • Provides a cost-effective solution for families who may not have the resources to maintain separate homes large enough to accommodate themselves and the children. By sharing the family home, parents can save money on rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and other household expenses.

A divorced couple from South Manchester decided to take it in turns to parent their children on a week on, week off basis. On his week off, the father, Toby has a home in Staffordshire with his second wife Sally and her children from a previous relationship, whilst on her ‘off’ week, the mother, Kate, lives 75 miles away in Cumbria with husband, John. During their ‘on’ week, the former couple live out of a suitcase, stripping the bedding and arriving with groceries. They always swap on Mondays, each cleaning the house on a Sunday, so it is ready when the other arrives for their stint. After initially finding there was an issue around territorialism, they like to keep the arrangements hotel-like, with the flat decorated neutrally and nothing of the other person’s left behind. Shifting house rules can be an issue too, and whilst Toby and Kate agree on the fundamentals, such as homework, they have different feelings on other things, which have caused friction in the past. It is probably unreasonable for any such arrangement to go without a hitch, after all, the couple will have divorced in the first place for a reason (or many reasons), so a birdnesting arrangement will require compromises on both sides to make it work.

What are the downsides to birdnesting?

While birdnesting can be a helpful co-parenting arrangement for some families, there are also potential drawbacks to consider, such as:

  • Birdnesting requires a significant amount of coordination and communication between the parents. This can be challenging for some, particularly those who have a high level of conflict or who struggle with communication.
  • Living in a shared space can be difficult for some parents who value their privacy. This can be particularly difficult for parents who are not able to establish clear boundaries or who struggle with co-parenting conflict.
  • While birdnesting can be a cost-effective solution for some families, it can also be financially hard. Maintaining a shared household can be expensive, particularly if parents have to fund secondary accommodation.
  • Birdnesting can be emotionally problematic for some parents, especially if they are still dealing with the pain of a divorce or separation. The arrangement can also be difficult for children, who may struggle to adjust to the constant parental changes.

Overall, while birdnesting can be a helpful arrangement for some families, it is not the right fit for everyone. It is important for parents to give careful consideration to the potential drawbacks before deciding if it is the right choice for their family.


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