By Alisse C. Camazine of Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C.
The children live in the formal marital home, or “bird’s nest,” with either Mom or Dad who take turns staying with the children. This was the custody arrangement of choice for Jon and Kate Gosselin of the reality television show “Jon and Kate Plus 8.” The idea behind the Bird’s Nest arrangement is a good one, it provides young children with stability during the early years of a divorce. But for Jon and Kate their motivations were likely, in at least some part, to accommodate the camera crews.
For young children or children with special needs especially, the stability a Bird’s Nest arrangement could bring might be worth the apparent logistical issues. Divorce can be a tumultuous time and keeping the children in a familiar environment can ease their transition. If there was business travel or long work hours in the marriage, having only one parent home at a time may be a situation they have already become accustomed to. It also makes getting the children to and from school easier, there’s no need to pack their things, and coordinating schedules or pick-ups is made a little more convenient.
There are perhaps obvious issues with this type of arrangement. Not only does a Bird’s Nest arrangement require the upkeep of the marital home but also two separate residences for each parent. Of course, this requires capital on the part of both parties to maintain two residences unless the two parties wish to share the additional residence also. Many additional clauses to a Parenting Plan would be necessary regarding shared groceries and upkeep of the marital home which could extend beyond just care for the children, but into lawn maintenance and home repairs. Many divorcing couples do not want to share a residence with their soon to be ex. Understand that this provides little privacy for the divorcing couple.
This is to say nothing of whether either parent could have visitors or significant others with them during their time in the Nest. Both parties would have to discuss these potential issues at the start of the arrangement and should be open to negotiation and change as it progresses. A couple that could not communicate during their marriage and lacked some level of trust would struggle with this sort of arrangement.
While court’s will allow such an arrangement, the court’s generally will not order this without agreement. All kinds of custody agreements require cooperation and children of divorced parents, whether they move between their parent’s homes or stay in the former marital home, all have one thing in common– two people that love them enough to consider every possibility that might be in their best interest.
Before deciding what to do, you should discuss with an experienced attorney what kind of custody arrangements may work well to fit your specific needs.