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What is “Bird’s Nest” Custody?

Posted On November 8, 2022 In Child Custody

For divorcing couples with children, custody is almost always the most contentious issue and the one that most often leads to a contested divorce with the custody decision taken away from the parents and put in the hands of an impartial judge. But one of the newest approaches to post-divorce co-parenting is an option that truly puts the needs of the children first, and more and more parents in states across the U.S, including Arizona, are turning to this untraditional custody option. “Bird’s Nest Custody” takes its name from the natural way that adult birds take turns spending time in the nest caring for their young. Many Arizona parents find this new and innovative solution the least disruptive way to divorce while still providing a stable home for minor children.

How Does Bird’s Nest Parenting Work?

In recent decades, most states have turned to a 50/50 custody arrangement as the preferred option for children of divorced parents rather than the older method that predominately gave mothers primary custody and fathers alternating weekend and Wednesday night visitation. While this benefits both children and parents by allowing equal time for parenting, it can have a detrimental effect on stability. With children making such frequent transitions back and forth between homes, it often becomes chaotic and difficult to transition children’s necessary items such as:

  • Clothing
  • Favorite toys, blankets, and stuffed animals
  • Homework
  • Athletic gear for games and practices
  • Medications

It’s also difficult for children who miss their pets in one household while living in the other. Bird’s nest parenting eliminates these problems because the children remain in one home while the parents take turns living with them during their respective custody days. This provides a stable, suitcase-free living environment for the children.

Where Do Parents Live During Their Off-Schedule Days?

The key to bird’s nest parenting is to rent or purchase a second home, typically a small apartment within the parents’ budgets. The parents share the rent on the second home and rotate the days they live there. While one parent stays at home with the children during their custody days, the other stays in the apartment. Then they rotate when the custody days change. Parents with larger budgets may choose to rent or buy their own separate homes away from the family home so they don’t have to share an apartment.

Child psychologists find this method ideal for young children for the following reasons:

  • Less disruption to their normal lives and routines
  • No shuttling back and forth between homes for children
  • Children don’t need bedrooms in another home
  • Children always have their favorite toys, clothes, and pets
  • No important items or dirty laundry gets left behind during transitions
  • Children remain in their familiar communities with their friends and neighbors and continue their sense of stability and permanency
  • Children maintain full, meaningful relationships with both parents

While this arrangement is not one that Arizona courts can mandate as a custody arrangement, parents may request it as a temporary or permanent solution.

How Bird’s Nest Parenting Benefits Parents

Besides providing a stable home environment and routine for children, many divorced parents in Arizona and in other states find that bird’s nest parenting also offers them many advantages including the following:

  • Maintaining one or even two homes away from the children’s home is budget-friendly since it doesn’t require children’s bedrooms, children’s furnishings, toys, electronics, etc.
  • Parents also get to share custody of family pets who remain in the “nest”
  • Parents don’t have to transport clothes and toys or purchase two sets of these items
  • Parents can communicate about their children’s needs, appointments, sports schedules, homework, etc. by leaving notes 

Bird nesting works for many, but not all parents. Some parents may find it becomes difficult when they move on to new relationships since they are still in effect sharing a home. It also requires mutual respect, civility, and amicable communication to work smoothly.

Talk to an Arizona Family Law and Divorce Attorney today if you feel bird’s nest custody may be right for your family.