What Is "Birdnesting" – and Can It Work for My Family?

By: Russell J. Frank, Esq.
: November 01, 2016

Innovation is a key to evolution. So as long as people continue innovating and thinking of old paradigms in new ways, society cannot help but evolve – and this is certainly true when it comes to the family dynamic. We have seen a seismic shift in the ways families are constituted in the last 20 years or so, and with that comes the opportunity to re-think the ways in which families interact with each other.

As a family law attorney, I see new and innovative ways in which to deal with family issues on a daily basis, and nothing can be more illustrative of these new shifts in the paradigm within family law, and specifically child custody and timesharing, than the idea of birdnesting. 

The first time I remember hearing about birdnesting was with the divorce of actor Gwyneth Paltrow and her rocker ex-husband, Chris Martin, of Coldplay fame. While my initial thought was that any child custody advice or recommendations coming out of Hollywood should be quickly discarded, the more I looked into the idea of birdnesting, the more it seemed like something that could work for specific families that have the ability, both financially and personally, to provide a stable home for their children in a unique way. 

What Is Birdnesting? 

So, what exactly is birdnesting and how can it help a family in a post-divorce situation? The underlying idea behind birdnesting, as the name suggests, is to create a “nest” for the children in which they never have to leave. Instead of the children rotating between the parents following a divorce, it’s actually the parents that rotate in and out of the home, while the children remain in one residence.

Consider the idea of a bird departing the family’s nest while the chicks stay home, safe and secure in the nest. In this scenario, the divorced parents continue to maintain one residence for the benefit of the children, and then they would either have a separate residence for themselves, or they could share the expenses of a second home and simply rotate in and out of the same residence during their times away from the children. 

Who Would Benefit from Birdnesting? 

Naturally, birdnesting will not be for everyone. Probably the most important factor in deciding whether birdnesting may be appropriate for your family, aside from the finances of maintaining the residences, will be your relationship with your ex-spouse. Birdnesting will really only work if you are able to effectively communicate and have regular, civil, and even friendly, encounters with your ex.

Since it is likely there would be weekly interactions with your ex as you navigate between the residences, maintain a common residence and communicate about the children, if you have a combative relationship with your ex, then such regular interaction will probably not be in the best interests of the children, and that is probably a large reason as to why the marriage was not successful in the first place. If, however, you are able to have a cordial relationship with your ex, and you like the idea of having a little more stability for your children, then birdnesting may be an option to further explore.

While birdnesting is a relatively new phenomenon, the underlying theory behind it is as old as the animal kingdom itself: we protect the young by keeping them secure, and in this instance, the most security a child can have is having a consistent place to call home.  

Attorney Russell J. Frank is a partner at CPLS. P.A. and focuses his practice areas on family and marital law.