Maddox & Gerock

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A "bird's nest" child custody plan may be the answer for some

When a child's parents divorce, it seems to be obvious that the child will spend his or her time going back and forth between homes. That means two different addresses, two different bedrooms and the regular exchange as the child goes to the care of one parent from the other. A divorce is already a monumental change in a child's life, and having to adjust to a new home and lifestyle can only add to the stress. For these reasons, some parents in Virginia are turning to a unique form of child custody: the "bird's nest."

In a bird's nest arrangement, the child will remain in the family home. Instead, it is the parents that will take turns living in the family home part-time and staying in a separate apartment part-time. It is hoped that such arrangements will provide children with the stability they need to grow and thrive after a divorce.

Sometimes, if the parents are to share the same apartment when it is not their turn in the family home, bird's nesting can be cheaper. They do not need to provide for the child's needs, such as furniture, clothes and toys in two different households, because the child is residing full-time only in the family home. That means that the separate apartment can be more modest than it would be if the child was living there too. However, sometimes parents feel like they each need their own separate apartment when it is not their turn in the family home. In situations like this, bird's nesting can be costly.

Bird's nesting requires a good deal of cooperation. Parents must be united in the rules the child will follow when in their care. They will also need to make arrangements with regards to cleaning and maintaining the family home. They will also need to decide how the mortgage on the family home and utilities will be paid. These complications can be compounded if one or both parents start dating again.

In the end, bird's nesting may be the co-parenting answer some parents are looking for. Other parents may find that such an arrangement ties them too closely to their ex or is too expensive, and they are better off in a more traditional child custody arrangement. Above all, parents need to consider the best interests of the child. These interests may be best met when the child has two parents who are happy with the child custody arrangements that are set, and follow them in an appropriate manner.

Source: Psychology Today, "'Bird's Nest' Co-Parenting Arrangements," Edward Kruk, Ph.D., July 16, 2013

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Maddox & Gerock, P.C.
8111 Gatehouse Road
Suite 410
Falls Church, VA 22042
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