Parenting by Bird Nesting

by Bree Staines on October 10, 2016

Bree Staines

When parents separate, even on the most amicable terms, it is inevitable that there will be change to the family and the parenting arrangements. No longer is it possible for both parents to be involved in the children’s morning or night time routine, and to hear the stories as the children rush in the door after school or their extracurricular activities. After separation, the children are either running to one parent or the other as separation means both parents are not together anymore.

To alleviate this problem, there is a concept that some families favour called ‘bird nesting’. Bird nesting is when parents separate but the children remain living in the family home. The parents however take turns living with the children in the family home. When it is not the parent’s turn to live with the children in the family home, they live in their own separate accommodation nearby. For example, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Sunday Life section on 11 September 2016, a convenient solution is when the parents have an investment property that they can move into when not living in the family home.

The key advantage of bird nesting is that is allows the children to maintain their living environment whilst the parents determine what parenting arrangements they want in place post separation and who, if anyone, will keep the family home as part of the property settlement. By the parents having their own space from one another, there is the greater benefit than compared with the parties simply remaining separated under one roof, as it removes the tensions associated with having a shared space.

However, as also noted in the Sunday life article, bird nesting is not highly regarded by social family law experts. The time will come (unless the parents reconcile) where the children need to be aware that their lives will be changing because their parents have separated. Bird nesting does buy the parents some time before this event occurs, but it generally requires a high level of communication and trust between the parties to ensure the children are comfortable with their parents swapping residences. Bird nesting also ignores the fact that children, especially young children, have a primary carer and the relationship they have with that primary carer is important after separation, even if it does mean the non-primary carer does not get a “fair” and equal amount of time with the children.

In saying this though, if as a family lawyer I was advising a client who was the non-primary carer of the children, I may recommend bird nesting as it allows him/her to continue to have as much time as possible with the children post separation and demonstrate his/her caring ability. This in turn should assist in developing parenting arrangements that allow for him/her to have the most substantial and significant time practically possible.

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