Would sharing custody through bird nesting work for your family?

If your marriage ends, one of your primary concerns will more than likely be your children. Telling them about the divorce is only the first hurdle you and your spouse must jump. You want them to know that they have no responsibility in the breakup and that you both will continue to love them and want to spend as much time as possible with them.

Making that a reality is the next hurdle. You want to limit the impact the divorce will have on them, but making that happen may seem insurmountable. If you and the other parent have the means and the willingness, a relatively unknown custody arrangement may do the trick.

This unusual solution could be your answer

Have you heard of bird's nest custody? Not many people have. However, it does seem to be increasing in popularity of late. An Arizona judge probably won't recommend it, but you could discuss it as you negotiate your own custody agreement and parenting plan.

In this type of shared custody, the children remain in the home shared by the family. The parents go back and forth. This means that the children do not have to go back and forth from one parent's home to the other. All their things remain in one place in a familiar setting. They can remain in the same schools and play with their friends.

What do the children get out of it?

The children's lives remain largely uninterrupted. Yes, their parents are no longer together, but they did not have their entire lives turned upside down. Communication between you and the other parent may also be easier. You could put up a bulletin board for notes or discuss any issues when one of you enters and the other leaves. This arrangement also lets the children know that their parents are willing to do whatever it takes to put them first, which could ease the transition.

What about the parents?

Many of the downsides to this arrangement fall on the parents. First, you are the one whose life changes as you rotate in and out of the house. You will need to have a place to live when you are not with the children. In addition, unless you live in the marital home, you incur expenses for two households.

If you begin a new relationship, your new partner will need to understand your absences and the fact that you need to continue a somewhat close relationship with your former spouse in order to make this arrangement work at peak efficiency.

Before you leave the nest...

You and other parent need to determine if this type of custody arrangement serves the best interests of your children. Then, you need to run through worst-case scenarios and issues that may arise that could throw a monkey wrench into the arrangement. Questions need answering before committing to this arrangement.

If you both agree that, despite the challenges bird nesting presents to you and the other parent, it's the best option for the children, then you need to put your agreement in writing. Not only should it contain schedules and a division of responsibilities, but also rules of engagement. Consistency is vital in making this arrangement work.

Of course, each of you should have the freedom to spend your time with the children as you wish, but within reason. Both parents should agree on as much as possible from discipline to bed times. Changing the rules with each parent creates as much confusion and stress for the children as moving from house to house would. Moreover, your custody agreement will need to pass the scrutiny of the court, which means that it must meet the "best interests of the children" test and make sense for all involved.

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