What is “Birdnesting” in Legalese?
When family and matrimonial lawyers talk about Birdnesting or Nesting, they are not discussing anything related to our flying feathered friends. Rather, the concept of Birdnesting or Nesting in the context of a child custody matter is where the minor children stay in the family home while the parents take turns going in and out of the home on a scheduled rotation. This is not a new concept, but it is one that is often considered when a relationship breaks down and parties no longer want to live together in the home, but neither is committed to moving out and making the children move between two homes. Many believe that because the children do not have to move, it gives them some security and permanency in an otherwise changing family situation
There are certainly pros and cons to Nesting. On a positive note, this situation is often the easiest for the children as they do not have to adjust to moving between homes which requires them having to bring their belongings back and forth or having two sets of their belongings in two different places. In addition, with each parent in the home separately, tensions are relaxed and the children are able to enjoy quality time with that parent. Each parent also gets independent time with the children and enjoys the family home without the other parent present while having the ability to spend alone time when not with the children.
The downside of Nesting is that it is a temporary fix at best and is not sustainable long term. Let’s face it, as parent’s move on and develop new relationships and/or a desire for a more permanent residence, the Nesting arrangement ends. Further, it delays the inevitable, that is, at some point, the children will need to become accustomed to traveling between two residences. Some say that the sooner this happens, the better. Common thought is, “why prolong this and possibly create more anxiety for the children as they contemplate how that ultimate arrangement will work?”
Nesting is also oftentimes more expensive for the parties. After all, they are both sustaining the expense of the family home as well as a separate residence that they each use when not in the family home. Ultimately, the home will be sold and the proceeds allocated in some fashion between the parties, freeing up some cash. Sometimes one party will buy the other out, allowing the other party to have the funds to purchase or rent another residence suitable for the party and the children. Another big downside of Nesting is that it does not afford either party any privacy as the parties continue to share both residences.
Clearly, when there is upheaval in a parental relationship, each family needs to decide what is best for them as they transition from one family unit to two separate family units. Nesting can play a role in getting from point A to B. While it is not ideal for everyone, it certainly is a good mid-step while parents figure out where they ultimately want to be.