Michael E. Eisenberg Attorney at Law
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Bird nesting: Simplifying post-divorce life for your kids

You don't really have any beef with your former spouse regarding parenting skills. You just don't want to be married to this person any longer. If someone were to tell you there is a way to help your kids retain a sense of normalcy and routine in their lives as you all move forward to a new lifestyle together, would you want to learn more about it? 

Pennsylvania parents and others are trying out a new trend known as bird nesting, except that it isn't really new; it's just seen a resurgence in recent years. There is even a television sitcom based on the idea. Of course, when it comes to decisions relating to your kids, making sure you have a strong support network before taking any action is a key to success. 

The upsides of bird nesting 

If you and your former spouse set up a bird nesting plan, you'll be taking turns living with your children in the same house you shared during marriage. The following list shows some of the benefits other parents say they have enjoyed with similar systems: 

  • The kids don't have to move or shuttle back and forth between homes.
  • There's no need to put a for sale sign in the front yard. 
  • Since kids stay put, so does their stuff. It diminishes the stress of keeping track of school supplies and personal belongings that often get lost in the shuffle when kids are traveling back and forth between homes. 
  • Children do not have to adapt to new schools, new neighborhoods or find new friends while coming to terms with their parents' divorce. 
  • It helps provide routine and structure in children's lives, elements they may need to help them cope with divorce.  

If you and your former spouse get along fairly well and are willing to cooperate for the sake of your kids, bird nesting may be a parenting plan you want to try.  

Beware of the downsides 

You know what they say: Where there's a rose, there's a thorn. There are negative aspects associated with bird nesting in divorce. Only you can determine whether the good outweighs the bad or if perhaps you should find another way of doing things. The next list may or may not apply to your situation: 

  • It might strain your budget, especially if you still owe mortgage on your family home. You will likely incur added expense because you have to have somewhere to live when it's not your turn to be with your kids. 
  • Sharing a home with your former spouse can be awkward at times, especially if either one of you enters a new, romantic relationship.
  • Some say bird nesting makes moving on after divorce more challenging. You would still see your former spouse often and live part-time in the house where the two of you made many memories together. 

A thorough plan can help avoid major problems. It's critical that you pre-determine house rules, such as who pays the mortgage, who mows the lawn and whether each parent will have private quarters or will alternately share a bedroom.  

If problems arise 

Just because you and your ex might disagree about a particular issue down the line doesn't necessarily mean you should stop bird nesting. In fact, if your existing court order includes this arrangement in your parenting plan, you can't stop unless the court grants permission to do so. The best thing to do is try to remain calm and draw from your support resources to determine what course of action may be best to rectify the situation. 

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