father's hand on daughter's neck

“Bird Nest” Custody Arrangements

“Bird nest” custody received a lot of attention in 2009 when Jon and Kate Gosselin from the show Jon & Kate Plus 8 announced their bird nest custody schedule. A bird nest custody arrangement allows the children to remain in the family home while the parents are allowed to move in and out during their respective parenting times. This requires one or both parents to have another residence or place to stay during the other parent’s custodial time.

In theory, bird nesting allows more consistency and stability for the children. However, Courts will rarely, if ever, order a bird nest custody arrangement. In most divorce situations, a bird nest arrangement is difficult in practice. There remains many potential sources of conflict due to disputes over maintaining the home, respecting the other parent’s privacy, and whether to allow other friends or significant others to visit or stay at the home during each parent’s custodial time. Additionally, a bird nest custody situation can be extremely expensive, since it requires the parties to maintain several residences.

Situations where a bird nest custody arrangement may be appropriate are those with the following characteristics:
1. Ample financial resources to upkeep several residences;
2. An amicable relationship between the former spouses; and
3. An even custody arrangement, with both parents having substantially equal time with the children.

If bird nesting is not appropriate for your situation, it is important to keep in mind that the research community has found that the level of conflict between the parents is the most critical factor in determining children’s ability to adjust after a divorce. So, if a bird nest custody arrangement will cause more conflict between the spouses, it is not going to benefit the children despite its ability to allow a stable physical home.

Likewise, even with a traditional visitation schedule, when parents are able to keep conflict low, their children are less likely to suffer any negative psychological effects.