Is Bird Nest Custody an Option for You?

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Brett Pritchard Law

Divorce brings a lot of change for everyone in your family, and there is no escaping the fact that it is hard on everyone. The sad truth is that – as difficult as your divorce is on you – divorce is likely to be even more challenging for your children.

This burden on children is why parents often get creative when it comes to their custody arrangements, and many go to great lengths to help ensure that their children's lives are disrupted as little as possible. One example of this effort is bird nest custody, which allows the children to remain in their family home while each parent goes back and forth according to his or her parenting time schedule.

If you are facing divorce concerns related to child custody, reach out to a dedicated Killeen divorce attorney with a wealth of experience helping parents like you protect their parental rights while resolving their custody issues favorably.

Child Custody in Texas

Before we explore bird nest custody, it is important to understand the child custody basics in the State of Texas. In Texas, child custody breaks down into both legal and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the responsibility of parental decision making, and this responsibility can be assigned in any of the following ways:

  • You and your children’s other parent can make these decisions together.

  • You and your children’s other parent can make these decisions together, but one of you retains the authority to break a tie if your genuine efforts to reach a consensus prove fruitless.

  • You and your children's other parents can divide this decision-making authority according to the kind of decision that needs to be made.

  • One of you can take on this decision-making authority on your own.

The kinds of primary parenting decisions addressed by legal custody include the following:

The kinds of decisions that parents everywhere have to make around the clock remain the responsibility of the parent who is with the children at the time. Further, if an emergency arises, the parent who is most readily available is responsible for making any pressing decisions that need to be made.

Physical Custody

Physical custody determines how you and your ex will divide your time with your shared children. If one of you becomes the primary custodial parent, the children will spend the majority of their time with that parent while they have a parenting time schedule with the other.

You may also choose to divide your time with your children more evenly – according to whatever schedule works for you.

The Court’s Intervention

If you and your children’s other parent are able to resolve your child custody concerns between yourselves, you can hammer out your legal and physical custody terms according to your family’s own unique needs and preferences. The court is very likely to accept your terms and include them in your final divorce decree.

If you cannot resolve these matters between yourselves, however, you’ll need the court to intervene on your behalf and to provide you with terms that it deems in the best interests of your children.

Best Interest Factors

When the court makes child custody determinations, it always bases them on the involved children’s best interests. As such, the court turns to a wide range of best interest factors that help guide its decision-making process, including the following information:

  • Each child’s age and overall health (both physical and mental)

  • Each child’s preference on the matter (if he or she is determined to be old enough and mature enough to reasonably weigh in)

  • Each parent’s parenting abilities

  • The stability of the home provided by each parent

  • Any acts or omissions by either parent that are deemed inappropriate (and any mitigating factors)

  • Any community programs that are available to offer parenting assistance

The court also looks at how well adjusted the children are in their current living situation, including in relation to their home, school, and community at large.

If your children have acclimated nicely, the court may be inclined to maintain the status quo to the degree possible. This means that if one of you is invested in remaining in the family home with your children post-divorce, the court may be moved to agree.

Bird Nest Custody

In bird nest custody, your children remain in your family home while you and your ex go back and forth according to your parenting time schedules. In this way, your children’s schedules and lives are disrupted as little as possible by the divorce, which can prove emotionally beneficial and can also make the logistics far less complicated for everyone.

The flipside to this coin, however, is that it can be both jarring and expensive for the parents involved. Let’s take a closer look.

Traditional Custody Arrangements

In traditional custody arrangements, each parent has a home, and the children divide their time between both homes. This means that children need to cart their belongings back and forth between homes and often need to keep duplicates of necessary items at both. This can prove hectic for everyone involved.

While one of you may remain in your family home, your children will very likely spend a considerable amount of time with their other parent in a new home, which can be a difficult adjustment.

Simply hammering out the logistics of getting kids where they need to be – with all the stuff they need – can be challenging for parents and children alike, and it can add to your children’s stress levels.

The Bird Nest Approach

If you are considering a bird nest approach to custody, there is a lot to think about. The primary advantage for most families that choose to implement bird nest custody is that it minimizes disruption in their children’s lives.

The fact is that divorce can leave children feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under them, and traveling back and forth between each parent’s home does little to minimize this effect.

There is no getting around the fact that divorce is going to have a powerful impact on your children’s lives, but there are things you can do to help, and for some families, bird nest custody is deemed a step in the right direction.

Putting Your Kids First

If you are going through a divorce, it is easy to get lost in the emotional upheaval of it all. And this is not to mention the fact that your parental and financial rights hang in the balance. It is a lot for anyone to take on, and you should not expect yourself to act in accordance with some outside interpretation of perfection.

Taking care of yourself throughout the divorce process is one of the most important things you can do to help ensure you are able to continue taking the best care of your children (akin to putting on your own oxygen mask before helping your child put on his or hers during a turbulent flight).

This said, however, there are several things you can do to help protect your children from the fallout of divorce along the way, including:

  • Do not badmouth your children’s other parent.

  • Do not use your children as go-betweens or messengers with your soon-to-be ex.

  • Do not put your kids in the middle (by saying “take it up with your mom/dad,” for example).

  • Do not share your financial or emotional concerns with your children.

  • Do listen to your children’s concerns and help to assuage them.

  • Do let your children know that you are always there for them.

  • Do stay on top of whatever child custody arrangements you have in place during your divorce and beyond. Even if the schedule is not to your liking, consistency is in your children’s best interests.

  • Do put your own feelings aside while you help your children adjust to your family’s new normal.

The Pros and Cons of Bird Nest Custody

There are pros and cons to everything, and bird nest custody is no exception.

The Upside

The upside of bird nest custody is that it helps to minimize all the immense change that your children are going through. There are certain changes that you have absolutely no control over, including the fact that your children are going to be spending time with each parent separately – instead of all together.

The fact is that change in nearly every arena of all your lives is afoot. Allowing your children to remain in your family home while you and their other parent go back and forth takes an immense disruption – moving back and forth between you and their other parent’s homes – out of the equation.

There is a lot to be said for staying in your own home, with your own room, your own bed, and your own stuff right where you left them. If you have ever had to travel for work or have even taken a road trip, you know how challenging it can be – and it can be even more so for your children (with all the emotions that accompany divorce piled on top).

In other words, if you can swing it, bird nest custody can be a great option.

The Downside

The most obvious downside of you and your ex moving in and out of your family home in accordance with your parenting time schedules is the additional expense. You will both need to have another home to go to.

It generally isn’t feasible to share a small apartment that serves as a landing pad for each of you. While this is an economical option, it is unlikely to promote your own emotional health and well-being (or your ex’s), and this is just as important to your children’s ability to heal as it is to your own.

The expense of taking on three homes (even if you and your ex opt for very modest living quarters) can be the deciding factor when it comes to the bird nest option. If you can swing the expense – without compromising your ability to continue providing well for your children – a back-and-forth approach may be a viable consideration. If not, however, it is time to make other plans.

The Division of Marital Property

When it comes to your family home and bird nest custody, it is impossible to ignore the division of marital property. A couple’s most valuable asset is often their home, and in the State of Texas, marital property must be divided fairly – or equitably – upon divorce.

If you and your ex go back and forth while your children remain in your family home, the issue of this asset must be addressed.

If you have the resources, you and your ex can continue to own your home together until your children move on to college and their adult lives. If you both need your investment in your home to move forward with your post-divorce lives, however, one of the following will likely need to happen:

  • You sell your home and equitably distribute the proceeds between you.

  • One of you obtains a loan to buy out the other's equity in the home.

  • The ex who does not keep the home receives his or her share in its equity in the form of other assets.

These scenarios are generally not conducive to bird nest custody.

You Need an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney on Your Side

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a compassionate divorce attorney who understands how important your parental rights and child custody concerns are to you. Mr. Pritchard dedicates his practice to helping clients like you prevail with favorable terms that honor their children’s best interests and work for them.

We are on your side and here to help, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.