Bird Nesting

June 23, 2009

The media is all about the Gosselin divorce  today. Apparently, the infamous Jon and Kate are going to “bird nest.”  This is an arrangement where the children stay in the family home while their parents are going through a divorce.  Meanwhile, the parents rotate in and out of the house during their respective physical placement time with the kids.  

The parents must make arrangements for alternate housing during their “off” time.  Often, they stay with friends or family members.  One of the benefits of bird-nesting is that it is the adults, rather than the children, who are inconvenienced by having to pack bags and move back and forth between two residences.  When so many things about their lives are changing, having the constancy of their home can be a source of comfort to children.  When finances are tight, many divorcing couples feel that bird-nesting for a short time affords them the opportunity to “save” some money to enable the departing spouse to obtain more permanent housing.

For all of its potential benefits, Courts usually do not require bird nesting because it is fraught with the potential for problems.  Many of the same disputes that were present in the intact household remain a source of conflict during bird-nesting.  Disputes may arise over such issues as:

  • One spouse ate some of the groceries purchased by the other;
  • One spouse did not maintain the house or yard “properly” during her time;
  • One spouse went through the other’s mail or other personal effects;
  • One spouse had “friends” over for a party.

Despite the potential for these types of conflicts, when parents agree that a bird-nesting arrangement would be best for their children, courts will usually endorse such a plan on a temporary basis.  This is particularly so when the case appears to be relatively low-conflict.  The more even-tempered the individuals, the less likely that problems like those cited above will create major disputes.

Regardless of the circumstances, the bird nest tends to be a poor long-term solution, especially when it is only being done due to tight financial conditions.  Therefore, if a bird nest arrangement is in place, it is for a very short period of time, and usually ends before the divorce is finalized.

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2 Responses to “Bird Nesting”

  1. Rob Crane Says:

    Actually our family and many others have had a very positive, long-term experience with “birdnesting” although we hate that trivializing term. Staying together is obviously best when possible, but when not, this is a tremendous benefit to the kids. It’s not their fault the marriage failed. Why do they have to be the ones who move back and forth. A million American kids suffer their parents divorce each year. Anything that can be done to mitigate the damage done to them is a worthwhile consideration.

    To learn more about this technique, please consider visiting: http://www.KidsStay.org.

    Rob Crane, MD
    Department of Family Medicine
    The Ohio State University


    • A formal bird nesting arrangement is something that will typically not be ordered by the courts absent the whole-hearted agreement of both parents. Couples who are working through their divorces on a collaborative basis are far more likely to consider alternative or “non-traditional” living arrangements post-divorce. It takes very mature and insightful parents to recognize the benefit to the children of this type of arrangement. Both parents must be fully committed to making something like this work; often economics, and the adults wanting to “move on” with their lives, gets in the way of the best interests of the children.

      Dr. Crane, I visited your website and was inspired by your story. I will definitely be sharing this with others. Thank you for your comments.


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