More and more often, clients are contacting me to help with setting up successful nesting, or birdnesting arrangements. I am glad that more people know about nesting now because a successful nesting agreement can stabilize your family and keep your children’s lives stable with consistent routines. Divorce is a disruptive process, but nesting can dampen the disruption.
What is nesting? In short, the children stay in the family home while the parents rotate on and off duty according to an agreed-upon schedule. When the parent is on duty, they stay in the home with the children. When the parent is off duty, they may stay with friends or family, in an off-site apartment, or even an air bnb. Some families are able to nest within the home, establishing a part of the home as the off-duty parent’s site. This might be a converted garage or some other part of the house that is somewhat separate from the main living area.
Successful nesting is based on clear written agreements. These agreements address schedule, parenting, care of the home, finances, and many other issues that are discussed, negotiated, and agreed upon. The Parent’s Guide to Birdnesting will walk you through the process, step by step, to create a solid nesting arrangement.
Many attorneys, such as Karen Sampson in New Jersey, are supportive of nesting arrangements. In the past, stories of failed nesting were widely covered, but in my own experience, and those of my clients, nesting can be successful as a transition from marriage to divorce. Some families nest for years, others nest until specific milestones are reached. A milestone might the end of the divorce, the end of the school year, or the sale of the house. The key is respectful communication, modeling respectful interaction for your children, and easing the transition into separation or divorce.
Can anyone nest successfully? With some exceptions, anyone who can make and keep agreements with their partner or spouse can nest. Because agreements require trust, and trust is often at a low when people decide to separate, one has to make a sincere effort to rebuild trust. Keeping agreements helps rebuild trust. That’s why making and keeping agreements is so important. It is also the reason the agreements should be written and signed by both parents, and you should never sign an agreement that you can’t or don’t intend to keep.
When is nesting not a good idea? When there is serious untreated mental illness, danger of violence or other safety concerns, unmanaged addiction, or any other condition that would threaten the stability of the nesting plan.
You both love your children. Are you willing and able to set aside your own emotions for the benefit, welfare, and stability of your children? If so, you can probably nest successfully.