Could a Nesting Custody Arrangement Benefit Your Family after Divorce?

"Nesting" is a non-traditional custody arrangement in which children stay in the family home and parents trade off living in the house with the children, much like birds taking turns in the nest.

Also called "bird's nest custody," a nesting arrangement flips the typical custody arrangement backward. Instead of the children traveling between two parental houses, the children stay put, and the parents switch off between the family house and another location.

A nesting arrangement can be used as a transition step to maintain the children's familiar surroundings and routines. It can also be used as a more permanent custody arrangement. It's usually a choice. Nesting is rarely ordered by a court, as it requires the parents involved to be in full agreement, active in their communication with one another, and on good terms.

What are the benefits of a nesting arrangement after divorce?

The most obvious benefit of nesting is the increased stability for the children involved.

  • Consistency: Instead of moving back and forth between two houses, the children get to continue to sleep in the same room, play in the same backyard, and attend the same school.
  • Less stress: In a more "traditional" separation situation, one home is likely to be unfamiliar – at least in the early stages – which makes things more stressful for children. Further, with nesting, there's no worrying about leaving necessities or beloved items behind at Mom's house and no need for parents to buy two sets of everything a child might need.
  • Better communication: For some parents, communication may be easier in a nesting arrangement because there is a clear location where the exchange of information can take place: the family home. Parents may use a shared calendar on the fridge or leave each other notes on the counter, knowing that the message will be received as the other parent enters the nest.

What are the disadvantages of a nesting arrangement after divorce?

Of course, there are some disadvantages to nesting as well.

  • It can be expensive. A separated couple likely does not want to share a bed, and each parent will want to maintain their own space away from the nest. The family as a whole is therefore financially responsible for three residences instead of the more typical two.
  • It can be more stressful for the parents. Although nesting maintains stability for the children, it places a much larger burden on the parents to be constantly moving between two homes. This type of constant change can be emotionally difficult for adults as well as children.
  • Privacy can be harder to maintain. Nesting requires a separated couple to share space, even if not at the same time. For some parents, maintaining privacy may be a concern.


Is nesting right for you?

Nesting can work well for some families. For example, if you have young children who find transitioning between homes difficult, nesting may be right for you – if only as a temporary plan.

You may want to consider nesting if you and your ex have the following:

Good communication

Do you and your co parent feel confident in your communication? Are you willing to come to – and stick to – a clear agreement about home exchange times, shared space, and shared housework?

Adequate space

Does the family home allow for you and your ex to each have your own space? Is there a guest bedroom one parent could "take over" as their room? (Time-sharing the master bedroom with your recently separated ex may not be the best option.)


If you and your ex are flexible, you may enjoy changing locations frequently.

Watch: Is Nesting Right for You?
**Please note that this blog pertains to existing California law and is meant for informational purposes only. Please do not make decisions that will affect your future based on things you've read on our website. 
Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.