Bird Nesting After a Divorce: Pros & Cons of a Shared Home

Learn about the nesting co-parenting phenomenon, and if a post-divorce shared family home could work for you.

Published April 1, 2023
dad greeting children with suitcase

If there's one thing adults with divorced parents remember well, it's the back-and-forth shuffling between their parents' houses. With breaks spent with one or weekends with another, it could be challenging for everyone - and parents today are breaking with this time-honored tradition in a unique way.

Bird nesting divorces are on the social periphery, and they can be a positive alternative to standard custody arrangements in a divorce. Learn more about bird nesting divorce pros and cons and why people are considering them in the first place.

What Is a Bird Nesting Divorce?

Bird nesting divorces aren't anything new, they've just gotten a new publicist, and some much-needed social media attention. The United States has a pretty conservative view of divorce in comparison to other western countries, where co-parenting styles have emulated bird nesting divorces' key tenants for a while.

Essentially, a bird nesting divorce is only applicable to families with children that live at home. In an effort to maintain stability, kids stay in a single home that both parents rotate in and out of. Think of it like the inverted version of 'going to mom's/dad's house'.

Of course, the trend's gained recent notoriety thanks to famous parents who've tried their hands at nesting like Mad Men's Anne Dudek and Matthew Heller and Girls 5Eva's Busy Philips and Marc Silverstein.

Bird Nesting Divorce Pros and Cons to Consider

Although it can feel exciting jumping on the newest social trend, bird nesting divorces don't work for everyone. Naturally, there are benefits and downsides to any co-parenting style, and every separated couple should consider exactly what's best for their situation.

If you're considering a nesting-style divorce, these are some of the major pros and cons you to look at.

Pro: Your Kids Have Childhood Stability

In most divorces, one parent keeps the house and the other moves to a new location. Kids are forced to split their time to varying degrees between either house, and that can look like whole summers or breaks away from the major social networks they've built at school. By rotating parents around the kids' location instead of the kids to their parents, you're giving them the chance to feel a sense of stability in what can feel like an unstable family dynamic.

Con: It Can Be Expensive

While there's no right or wrong way to have a nesting divorce, at least one person will have to buy or rent a new property to stay at. Although one parent can permanently stay at the nesting house, the other'll need somewhere to stay in the interim. And, to make things more equal, both parents tend to find separate places to live so they're not cohabitating in the same way they were when they were married. This tri-property expense is just one of the many cons about bird nesting divorces noted in one 2019 publication.

Finances are a serious consideration for nesting, especially if the original property isn't paid off and both parties are equally liable for its bills on top of a new apartment, condo, or house for themselves.

Pro: It Can Be a Little Easier to Be on the Same Parenting Page

A nesting divorce creates a unique opportunity for divorcees to co-parent a little more easily with one another. Whether it's soccer practice, a dentist appointment, or a group project, you both can be in the know right away. Similarly, there's less chance of major differences in how things are done compared to how it might be with kids staying at "parent A" or "parent B's" house. Kids will only have to abide by one standard that you and your partner can uphold together.

Keep in mind that it's still best to create a co-parenting plan that both of you agree on regarding decision making, parenting philosophies, and other areas concerning your kids' well-being.

Con: Traveling and Holidays Can Get Complicated

If you travel for work or want to go on vacation, you're at your partner's mercy since there's no set custody agreement as to who has the kids on which days of the year. Thus, you do have to run your plans by your partner to make sure they'll be willing to watch the kids. This works best if your divorce ended amicably.

Additionally, holidays can be complicated. Of course, they're complicated for any divorced family, but they're doubly complicated if your family usually travels to visit during the holidays. To be the most respecting of each other's space, the best way to approach this is not letting extended family stay in the nesting home.

Pro: It Might Be Easier to Get Help When You Need It

One of the best things about co-parenting with a nesting style is that there's help around the corner. If you're running late or have an unexpected meeting come up, there can be someone at home to take care of the kids for you. There doesn't have to be that level of single-parent juggling that happens in the first few months or years immediately after a divorce.

Con: It's Designed for Single Parents

The bird nesting style is designed for single parents and isn't optimized for when someone finds a long-term relationship or new marriage. It can be really hard to divide your time with your new partner in one location and spending nights in another to be with your kids. And it's not exactly fair to ask your ex to be in close quarters with your new partner or to uproot the nesting house because you settled down first.

In this way, nesting houses have an unavoidable expiration date.

Other Bird Nesting Considerations

There are a few other things to consider when it comes to bird nesting after a divorce.

Practical Considerations

You'll need to figure out things like how often each parent will rotate, how you'll split mortgage payments, who is responsible for chores, how you'll hand re-stocking groceries and household supplies, and so on.

Emotional Aspects

It can be difficult to continue living, at least for some of the time, in the same place where you lived with your spouse or partner before the divorce. There might be lots of hard memories to deal with, and it will feel entirely different living there with just the kids. For some, this can be a way to ease the transition. For others it might be more difficult. You'll need to evaluate if it will be an emotionally healthy situation for you.

You and Your Ex Will Need to Agree on All the Specifics

Figuring exactly how it all will work, including everything from where each parent will stay when at the nesting home to the estimated length of time for the nesting to take place, will take a little time. A mediator can help with these things, but you and your former spouse or partner will still need to agree on all the specifics before you put it into practice. Since there might be differing opinions on some of these aspects, it could layer in some additional challenges.

Bird Nesting Like a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Divorces are a perfectly natural way to end a relationship. If only they came with a post-divorce parenting guidebook. With decades' worth of experience with traditional divorce set-ups, some parents today favor the unconventional (for now) bird nesting style. While bird nesting divorces might not be up your alley, they can remind you that there's no rulebook to tell you what your post-divorce parenting should and shouldn't look like. So, take some tenants from this style and pieces from others to build one tailor made for you and your family.

Bird Nesting After a Divorce: Pros & Cons of a Shared Home