After your divorce, who owns your home? Though financially and legally you or ex-wife may own it, you do have the option to let your kids have the house. Not unsupervised, like some 21st century version of The Little Rascals, but by having each parent take turns living in the family home during their parenting time. This technique, in which the kids stay put and the parents come and go, is called nesting or bird nesting. You, Daddy bird, bring no twigs. You live in the house for a weekend, a week or two weeks (whatever your visitation plan says), then rotate out to make way for your wife to repeat the cycle. (Your wife brings no twigs, either, but you are both welcome to bring home food for the little nestlings.)

Birds of a Feather: Your Children’s Ties to the Family Home

The world’s largest documented bird nest was a bald eagle’s nest. This Floridian supernest, says Guinness, was nearly 10 feet across and 20 feet deep, but it pales in comparison to even the humblest human home.

The family residence means a lot to your children. It may be the only house they have ever known. Their little personalizing touches — from the height markings on a door frame to their crayon scribbles on their bedroom walls — help them connect to a place, giving them a sense of stability.

You and your ex-wife can preserve that stability, says the Washington Post, by bird nesting, or nesting. The kids stay put; you each take a small apartment elsewhere, but nearby, and in rotation you move in and out to fulfill your parenting time (visitation) as laid out in the divorce decree.

Eagle Eye: Advantages of Nesting

Experts at Mediate outline many of the advantages kids get from nesting:

  • Children enjoy the permanence of the family home
  • School, friends and community connections stay the same for the children
  • Routines are uninterrupted
  • Children can better cope with the changing family dynamics

The adults in the arrangement enjoy benefits, too:

  • Financially, each parent spends less on a smaller new home than would be necessary if children were swapped for visitation
  • If each adult has a separate apartment, re-entering the dating scene is easier, since overnight stays can be out of sight of the children
  • The family home’s value is preserved, and the equity is available to both parents
  • The divorce can be less costly because many issues are decided automatically, since the major asset is not being divided

Birdbrain: Concerns around Nesting

Nesting only works if both parents are completely engaged and cooperative. If one bears a grudge, harbors ill will toward the other, or becomes possessive of the kids, the acrimony can ruin the arrangement.

Other concerns:

  • Children get confusing signals, since neither parent seems to be really moved out of the family home
  • Nesting is harder on both parents, since each is constantly moving in and out, still has to maintain two homes (cooking, cleaning, laundry, and all domestic chores)
  • Communication is vital over everything from the mundane grocery list to unexpected changes in schedule from illness, work, or appointments
  • For both you and your ex-wife, constantly seeing each other in the family home as you cross paths can be emotionally difficult, since the surroundings may recall happier times
  • If left open-ended, nesting can become a grind on everyone as children “age out” of the need for having both parents so close

Dodo: Considerations before Bird Nesting

You are not a dodo if you do not immediately “get it” about nesting. Questions to consider before rolling out a nesting arrangement as part of the divorce decree or property settlement agreement:

  • Can you afford it? — Though the family home remains, with it often comes a mortgage, which still must be paid while you and your ex-wife also shell out for a modest apartment elsewhere
  • How will family home expenses be divided?
  • Who is responsible for maintenance and repairs of the children’s family home?
  • Do you literally take leftover groceries and meals with you when you leave, or can you both afford to gloss over the constant financial loss?
  • Will you telegraph the wrong signals to your children, allowing them to harbor a false hope of you and your ex-wife getting back together?

Contact the Wise Old Owls at The Firm For Men

To implement a nesting arrangement, consult with your divorce attorney first. Ask for your attorney’s list of pros and cons to this wrinkle to the typical visitation schedule, and then have your lawyer broach it with your spouse’s attorney and spouse. Do not leap into it without thoroughly researching it. If offered to you by your spouse, do not simply comply to simplify the divorce; you will be living with that “Yes” for many years.

To clarify your concerns about nesting, call The Firm for Men at 757-383-9184 today to speak with a Virginia family law attorney. You can also contact us online, or stop by our Virginia Beach offices to schedule a consultation with an attorney. We can provide answers to your divorce questions from basic to complex.