The term "empty nesters" ordinarily applies to parents whose adult children have left home. So, you may be asking yourself, under what circumstances do children become empty nesters? It happens through a relatively unique type of co-parenting arrangement in which the children remain in the family home after a separation, or even possibly after divorce, and the parents rotate in and out of the home on a predetermined schedule.
As you can imagine, this type of custody arrangement - often referred to as "bird nesting" or just "nesting" - offers many advantages for the children and family as a whole, but also causes some complications for the parents. Many parents are able to handle the negatives and think the benefits to this arrangement are worthwhile, especially on a temporary basis.
The best parts of nesting
Advantages to bird nesting include:
- Children retain a greater sense of stability in the midst of stressful changes because their physical home is unchanged.
- Children keep the same or very similar routine as they had prior to the parents' separation.
- Parents have more time to determine how best to dispose of the marital home, whether they ultimately decide to sell it or agree that one party can refinance the mortgage and buyout the other's interest.
- Provides temporary savings for the family because the new home, most often rented rather than purchased, does not have to be large enough to accommodate the children, but only the non-nesting-parent during the time he or she is away from the marital residence.
- The schedule between which parent is in the marital residence with the children is often an equal or close to equal division of time.
Ideally, each spouse would have a different bedroom in the marital home and each spouse would respect the other's privacy and "private space" in the marital home, as well as their other residence if they shared that as well.
Additionally, nesting may be used during an interim period to allow parents to decide if divorce is the right choice for them while putting the family through as little change as possible during a trial separation.
The worst parts of bird nesting
On the other hand, many spouses who try this arrangement also experience the following disadvantages:
- Inconvenience as each parent moves into and out of the marital residence, normally on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
- Parents remain surrounded by the same environment and the other parent's belongings, which may dredge up emotions connected to the desire for the separation in the first place.
- Spouses remain tied to each other financially and in a living space, even when alternating.
- Each parent loses the sense of privacy that he or she would have if not engaged in the nesting arrangement.
- Starting any new relationship will prove especially challenging.
Overcoming these disadvantages and making this arrangement work only happens when parents can maintain an amicable relationship and respect and trust one another, despite their marital disagreements and differences.
The formalities of bird nesting
Even if you anticipate the nesting to be temporary, you should agree upon the ground rules and the custodial schedule and put them in writing. This may help you to avoid any unnecessary disagreements or complications. If you are considering separation, contact an attorney in northern Virginia or your area who is dedicated to family law and can answer your questions about separation and divorce, as well as bird nesting and custody generally, and who can prepare and negotiate an agreement that will work for you.