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Is “Bird Nest” Co-Parenting Right for My Kids After a Divorce?

Parents helping the kids with their homework

Child custody can be one of the most contentious parts of a divorce proceeding. Decisions regarding child custody and child-rearing are often very emotionally-charged, and divorce can be a difficult transition for young children. It pays to be open to a variety of potential arrangements that best suit your family situation. Some Illinois parents are finding that “bird nesting,” an alternative form of shared custody, is better for the children and themselves than traditional custody arrangements. Read on for a discussion of this alternate form of custody, and contact a dedicated Chicago child custody and divorce lawyer with any questions.

What is bird nesting?

In a typical joint custody arrangement, parents will trade off taking physical custody of their shared children at their own homes. The children will stay at each parent’s house for the duration of their parenting time. “Bird-nest” co-parenting or “bird-nesting” offers a different approach: The children stay in the same home, and the parents swap out for the duration of their parenting time. Rather than taking the kids to dad’s house for the weekend or every other week, dad will move into the home for the weekend or during his custody week and mom will move out during that time. At the end of the appropriate period, they switch back.

Pros and cons of bird nesting

Bird nesting may offer more stability for children dealing with the mountain of changes that come with any divorce. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by shuffling from one house to the other, the children get to continue living in the same home, in which they are comfortable, and they can deal with the transition more slowly. Ex-spouses, too, may find comfort in easing the transition after a divorce by keeping the same home.

Additionally, the approach can save either or both parties a lot of money after a divorce. Rather than one parent being forced to buy another home or condo large enough to accommodate children, the parties can rent a smaller apartment or condo that they can use when it is not their turn to parent. Both parties can rent their own separate lodgings, splitting the cost evenly and reducing the total overall expense of moving out.

However, there are potential drawbacks. Selling the family home and moving to separate houses can provide a clean break necessary for ex-spouses to feel closure and move on following a divorce. The bird nest arrangement also presumes the parties get along well enough to essentially share a home; if they do not get along, continuing to share a home can make things worse. Basic issues like deciding who pays utility bills can lead to unnecessary conflict. Continuing to encounter an ex-spouse’s personal effects, or noticing signs that an ex is dating someone new, can also lead to emotional fallout. Moreover, sharing a marital home may have unintended tax consequences: If the parties are filing as single, rather than married, who gets to deduct real estate taxes and mortgage interest payments?

Bird nesting may be a good option for your family, but it is something you should discuss with your family law attorney and, where appropriate, your ex-spouse or the other co-parent.

Bird nesting is an option but is still new

Illinois parents can agree to bird nesting during mediation or as part of their divorce settlement. There is nothing in the law that prohibits or discourages these arrangements. However, the approach is still relatively new to Illinois, and courts are not likely to impose a bird nesting arrangement over the objection of one or both parents. If the couple cannot agree, then a court will likely order a more traditional form of joint custody. If you want to explore bird nesting as an option, you and your family law attorney will have to come to an agreement with your co-parent.

If you’re considering divorce in Illinois, contact the compassionate, professional, and experienced Carol Stream family law attorneys at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt for a consultation on your case at 630-665-9600.

Johnson Westra Broker Whittaker & Newitt, P.C.

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