Bird’s Nest Custody – a New Approach to Joint Custody?

Kate Banerjee Partner and Head of the Children Department Jones Myers Family Law Solicitors

Kate Banerjee
Head of the Children Department
Jones Myers Family Law Solicitors

Touted as the smart new way to divorce by the media, ‘bird’s nest custody’ is becoming more common in the UK as rising numbers of British courts recommend shared parenting instead of sole custody for one of them.

Bird’s nest custody sees children stay in the family home, while their parents move in and out on an agreed schedule to look after them.

As well as the intended benefit of reducing stress and change for the youngsters, it can also be a cheaper solution for parents who might struggle to maintain their pre-divorce lifestyle.

Here, children would remain in the family home with one parent, while the other would live in a smaller flat, removing the need to provide two bedrooms for each child – complete with toys, fixtures and furniture at each place.

Parents can either swap between homes or stay with family and friends when their ex moves in.

To date, UK courts have not forced bird’s nesting onto anyone; however couples are coming across the solution via mediation, before reaching court.

With many divorcees reporting that it has also brought them closer together as they collaborate on the common goal of securing their children’s best interests, it is likely to increase in popularity.

On the surface, then, this is a promising route to a civilised family life after divorce.

However, it must be borne in mind that no two couples and no two divorces are the same, so there are no one-size-fits-all options. Below are some factors to consider if you’re wondering whether birds’ nest custody is right for your family:

  • The ages of the children. Some may be of an age where they can accommodate this arrangement, but older children may rebel, or feel unsettled by the situation.
  • How you will communicate what’s happening to your offspring. While the arrangement might give children a sense of security, it could also be quite confusing for them and raise false hope that their parents might get back together. Explaining it very carefully – particularly to younger children – is vital.
  •  Co-operation from your ex. The levels of trust and support needed to make birds’ nest custody work are quite rare among ex-partners, as inconvenient ‘real world’ practicalities will inevitably effect the arrangement. For example, one or both of you could meet someone else. There is also the issue of cooking and shopping for your ex, when you must declare that you have lived separately and apart before decree absolute can be granted.

We recommend that boundaries and rules are drawn up, written down – and signed up to before you embark on this arrangement.

Difficulties and obstacles are not insurmountable, but parents would need to compromise and plan and communicate effectively – just as in other child custody matters.

 Kate, is the Head of the Children Department at Jones Myers.   She is highly skilled in cases relating to children including contact and residence disputes.

Kate specialises in child protection law and is a Member of the Child Care Panel with experience representing parents, guardians, Local Authorities and children.

As well as working regionally and nationally, Kate has considerable expertise in international child abduction cases and is a Member of the International Child Abduction and Custody Unit.

Kate has “Higher Court Rights,” something fewer than 2,500 solicitors have in England and Wales, which enables her to offer clients an all-round litigation service.

Clients find her sensitive, caring and approachable and she engenders these principles in all of her team.

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