Family law attorneys, counselors, and psychologists all do their best to minimize trauma for the children in situations where the parents are separating or going through a divorce. One new method of coping with the trauma is called “birdnesting, “ which is a means of keeping the family home intact and providing stability for the children during this very stressful time.
Specifically, ”birdnesting” is where the parents keep the original family home intact where the children remain by sharing the home with the other spouse but not at the same time. One parent will be in the home at a time while the other resides in a separate apartment, which the parents can also share if they wish. The children are in the marital home 100% of the time. The parents then switch places on a weekly basis or according to whatever schedule they implement.
There are numerous advantages to birdnesting:
- The children keep attending the same school, church, mosque, or synagogue
- Their social circle and life are kept intact
- No need to constantly pack their clothes, toys, or other items in circumstances where the parents maintain their own separate residences
- The children have time to adjust to the new reality
- You can save on expenses if you plan accordingly
- You need not decide right away whether to keep the family home or to sell it
However, this unusual arrangement must be short-term, with most advocates saying that 3-months should be the limit. If it continues indefinitely, then the children may become depressed once they realize that they will no longer experience the joys of an intact family unit and the good times you all had together. They also may assume that you and your spouse will be reconciling.
Another concern is the cost of maintaining two residences. Even a studio apartment is costly, and your lease term will generally be one-year. Also, be aware that you still must come up with a parenting plan to present to the court. Putting it off now can lead to more problems regarding custody and visitation.
Suggestions If You Birdnest
It is very helpful if you and your spouse are on amicable terms to some degree before embarking on this temporary arrangement. If you both agree on birdnesting for a limited time, then here are some suggestions to consider:
- Decide on a schedule of when and who will be in the house for what periods of time.
- There will be certain costs. Will they be shared?
- If items are used up, such as toilet paper or certain condiments, plan on having that parent replace it. Or have a budget drawn up for sharing the costs of certain items.
- Decide on paying the utilities for each residence, mortgage, insurance, and other household expenses that can apply to each residence.
- Decide on who gets to deduct the interest on the mortgage, real estate taxes, and other benefits.
- Have a plan if one parent does not pay his or her share of the rent or mortgage.
- If you are dating, come to an agreement about having that person visiting the marital home or even the shared apartment.
- Child support is an issue. Come to an agreement as to how it will be calculated, who pays it, and if it is to be paid at all? Consult a divorce lawyer on this issue.
- Let your children know that this is a temporary arrangement and that you and your spouse will not be reconciling—this may require some help with a counselor or psychologist, however talking to and consoling your children in familiar surroundings can make the transition easier.
- Keep the same rules for the children on meal times, cleaning their room, chores, homework, and visiting friends
- Maintain contact with other family members such as cousins, aunts and uncles
For some couples, birdnesting is not a viable, temporary solution. The emotional toll can be overwhelming since you are surrounded by memories of a former life. You are also reminded of the other spouse’s presence by seeing their possessions throughout the house. This makes it that much more difficult to move forward. It does, though, give you both time to work out a timesharing or parenting plan. You can also see firsthand how the finances are to be worked out.
Consult Divorce Lawyer Heather M. Ward
Going through a divorce may be the most trying time of your life. With so much to consider including how to raise the children or where to find emotional support, the legal issues involved may not be a priority. This is why it is so important to have a divorce lawyer who understands what you are going through while ensuring that your legal issues are not forgotten. Heather M. Ward is a Boston divorce lawyer who has your best interests and those of your children in mind while advocating for you and counseling you on your legal options. Call her today for a free consultation at (617) 906-7554.