Following a divorce or separation, one of the toughest challenges a couple will face is determining where to live. A new recent trend, known as bird nesting, seeks to help separated couples simplify their living situation, especially when children are involved. Bird nesting is a living arrangement where exes will keep one home for the children but swap out time living in it.
A bird nesting plan ensures that the children will not be disrupted and reside in the same place 100% of the time. When it’s Parent A’s designated time, they will live in the house with the children and Parent B will reside in a rented space. When it’s Parent B’s designate time, they will move into the home and Parent A will reside in the rented space. The living pattern and schedule will continue as long as a bird nesting plan is in place.
Bird nesting plans may seem simple, but it is advisable to have a parenting plan and timesharing arrangement in place to help determine logistics such as weekday, weekend, and holiday schedules as well as determine who will pay for which bills and utilities. As with many things in life, there are both pros and cons to bird nesting.
Pros of nesting plans include some financial and emotional benefits. Maintaining a shared home and rental space may reduce post-marital housing for both parties, as opposed to each parent being financially responsible for their own separate household. A nesting plan can also eliminate immediate questions as to what to do with the family home. This can be especially beneficial if the housing market is not conducive for the sale of your home, or your lease has not yet expired.
Financials aside, the driving force for bird nesting seems to be the emotional benefits it can provide for children. Nesting plans allow children to avoid immediate upheaval in their lives. It allows their schedule to remain virtually unchanged, while avoiding issues that may occur when time sharing between two different households such as forgotten homework at Parent A’s house or a favorite blanket at Parent B’s. Bird nesting allows children to stay comfortable in one environment while they adjust to their parents’ separation.
However, nesting plans are not the perfect fit for all divorce situations. During divorce, assets are typically divided and it is a clean break, essentially allowing each side to start fresh. With a nesting arrangement there may not be as clear of a line, and issues such as who pays the water bill can turn into full blown arguments. Other issues that may crop up include home repairs. One side may be making an investment that they will not benefit from once the nesting plan ends.
There are also tax questions, such as who will make the deductions for the mortgage interest and real estate taxes. Child support may be a bit trickier to calculate as well, since both parents are technically living together. Some will argue that it shouldn’t be paid at all.
Emotional questions such as privacy will also come into play with bird nesting. What will happen to items you’ve left in the shared household when it’s Parent B’s time? How will your ex feel if you begin dating and bring your new partner into the shared home? Will the children get confused? What happens when one side wants to end the nesting arrangement?
Do the cons of a nesting arrangement outweigh the pros? Or is it something that may the perfect solution as you and your family transition through the divorce process? For many that are “un-coupling,” nesting arrangements tend to be temporary, allowing time for families to adjust to their new reality.
There is no easy answer when it comes to divorce. It is imperative to consider ALL facets that factor into the well-being of your children and yourself. Nesting plans can work, but there are lots of moving parts to consider. Meeting with an experienced divorce lawyer can help you and your spouse determine your marital and post-marital expenses as well determine if a bird nesting could work for your situation. Mediators can assist, negotiate, and come to an agreement that will work for everyone involved and help to answer all the “what-ifs” that may come up down the road.
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Partner at John F. Schutz, P.L.
Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.
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