Nesting as an Alternative Custody Arrangement

“Nesting” is a non-traditional custody arrangement. The children stay in the family home and the 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 houses the parents live in, the children stay put and the parents switch off between the family house and another location.

Nesting arrangements 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 communication, and on good terms.

Benefits of a nesting arrangement

The most obvious benefit of nesting is the increased stability for the children involved. 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. Usually, one home is likely to be unfamiliar at least in the early stages of separation which makes things more stressful for children. 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.

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.

Disadvantages of a nesting arrangement

Of course, there are some disadvantages to nesting. First, 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 also be more difficult 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.

Additionally, 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 certainly work well for some families. You may want to consider nesting if:

1. Good communication: You and your co-parent feel confident in your communication. You are willing to come to—and stick to—a clear agreement about home exchange times, shared space, and shared housework.

2. Adequate space: Does the family home allow for you and your ex to have adequately separated space? Is there a guest bedroom one parent can “take over” as their room? Time-sharing the master bedroom with your recently separated ex may not be the best option.

3. Children’s age: Do you have young children that might find the transition to two homes difficult? Nesting may be a good option for your family, even as a temporary plan.

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

**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. Instead, consult with a Certified Family Law Specialist. It doesn’t have to be us, but be sure to seek out sound legal advice that pertains specifically to the facts of your case.

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