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What is “bird’s nest parenting”?

“Bird’s nest parenting” is a shared care arrangement which is increasingly being adopted by separating parents going through divorce. The children stay in one house, usually the family home, whilst the parents take it in turns to live in the property and care for the children. The idea being that this arrangement puts the child(ren) first.

Where did it originate from?

It is thought that the idea stems back as far as 16 years ago in the United States in 2000 when a Court agreed that  “bird’s nest parenting” would be in the best interests of the parties’ children. It is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, although the Family Courts would never force a separating couple into agreeing this type of arrangement, as it will not be suitable for all families.

What does it look like practically speaking?

It depends on the family, their individual circumstances and the financial resources available to them. Some families have use of three properties, the family home with a separate home belonging to each of the parents, where each parent takes it in turns to move into the family home to care for the children. Whilst others might have a family home with one parent living in a smaller rented property such as a flat. Parents either share their time between the properties or they stay with friends or family members whilst the other parent moves into the family home to spend time and look after the children.

What are the benefits?

Parents often feel a sense of empowerment if they are able to agree child arrangements between them, rather than going through the Courts and having a Judge decide what is in the best interests of their children. That is the main reason why there are no published statistics to indicate how many families have adopted this type of parenting. Working together in this way will show children that although their parents are separated, they are still able to get along with each other.

The major reported benefit is that of stability and consistency and the fact that the children’s needs are being put first. It is also recognised that less disruption reduces the stress on children whose parents are separating and in terms of practicalities it means the school uniform, football kit or homework is never inadvertently left at one parents home.

It also means that children no longer need two of everything, which can be of great relief to parents struggling financially due to the effects of separation or divorce.

What are the disadvantages?

Whilst the child-centred approach aims to provide a settled environment for children, parents can often struggle with the realities of the situation. For many parents the family home is their sanctuary, and the thought of having an ex-spouse in their home can be too intrusive.

Then there are the more practical aspects to discuss, such as where will your ex-partner sleep when they stay at the family home, is there a spare bedroom, or a sofa bed? If not, would you consider letting them sleep in your own bed? Should you do the food shopping in advance of their visit, or clean the house? What about the parent visiting – should they help out with household chores? What happens when one or both of you meet new partners?

This type of arrangement is not a silver bullet, it will not be suitable for all families, but if you want to consider “bird’s nest parenting” then you should consider speaking to your ex-partner or you might wish to utilise mediation to discuss the guidelines which will set out how the arrangement will work going forward. There has to be a large amount of trust on both sides which includes each person being respectful of the other’s private information and each other, and putting the love for the child(ren) first above all else.

If you are separating or considering getting a divorce it is important that you also deal with arrangements relating to any children and the financial aspects arising on divorce. At Gorvins we offer a personal, practical and collaborative service which assists when dealing with cases of a sensitive nature. If you need advice please contact me on 0343 507 5151 or email enquiries@gorvins.com and I would be more than happy to help you.