Divorce takes a toll on an entire family, which is why many divorcing parents go to great lengths to protect their children’s well-being. One TV comedy is illustrating a possible solution to minimize the emotional impact – but is this living situation a possibility for real families?
Splitting Up Together
“Splitting Up Together,” starring Jenna Fischer and Oliver Hudson, illustrates a concept called bird nesting. The term refers to a scenario in which divorced parents keep one home for their children and take turns living there. As you can imagine, there are some big advantages and disadvantages to this setup, which a CNBC article breaks down. Here’s the scoop:
Pros of bird nesting:
- Parents can let the home’s lease expire or let its value increase.
- There is less immediate upheaval for the children.
- The ex-spouses can take extra time to disentangle them from married life.
Cons of bird nesting:
- Complications can arise if the parents’ schedules do not work well together.
- Continuing to maintain a household together can pause the post-divorce healing process.
- Parents will need to address and restructure chores, expenses, and other factors.
Bird nesting isn’t for every family. If the solution is a good fit, however, it can help ease the emotional toll of divorce. In the CNBC article, experts have some tips for making it work. They suggest the parents come up with a clear plan to run the house and decide how long the living situation will last. It’s also critical to make sure the children are comfortable and understand that their divorced parents are not going to get back together.
Considering Birdnesting after Your Divorce?
Birdnesting’s a hot new divorce trend you might have heard about, especially since lots of celebs have embraced it, like “Mad Men” actress Anne Dudek and her ex Matthew Heller. Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. Even Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have set up a birdnesting arrangement as part of their conscious uncoupling. And, lots of regular folks are trying it out, too. Should you?
Birdnesting sounds great on its face – two amicable exes retain the family home (or “nest”) and the kids stay put there, while the parents rotate in and out. So, when it’s Parent A’s time with the kids, they move into the family home, while Parent B stays in a separate, smaller space. When it’s Parent B’s time with the kids, they move into the family home and Parent A heads to another pad.
SHORT-TERM BIRDNESTING BENEFITS KIDS
As the parents rotate in and out of the nest, the kids benefit from the stability and comfort of staying in their home. This arrangement works well when your former marital residence is pending sale, and until the financial proceeds can be released and used by both you and your ex to purchase new, separate homes.
Birdnesting can also definitely cut out the awkwardness of living under one roof while your divorce is pending, with your ex staying out of the home during your parenting time. However, it does take a little juggling: Mom sleeps at her friend’s home or parents’ place until the family home is sold, returning to it on her days with the kids; Dad sleeps at his buddy’s home or parents’ place when it’s Mom’s days in the nest.
Many birdnesters choose this arrangement, though, to keep their kids in a centralized location. Since there’s just one nest, the children’s clothing, technology, and toys stay put, so there’s no “I left my soccer cleats at Daddy’s.” Plus, for many kids, the family home might be the only house they’ve ever known, and this setup can be the least disruptive, especially for younger children.
So even if you don’t birdnest for the long term, instead of the sudden departure of one parent, this arrangement affords your kids a slower transition into their new family dynamic. Your kids get consistent, equal access to both parents, and you score alone time with your kids away from your soon-to-be ex.
YOU CAN’T CRASH ON A COUCH FOREVER
However, birdnesting isn’t really sustainable for the long term for most families because you simply can’t crash on someone’s couch or live in someone’s guest room for infinity – think about what that would do to your freedom, privacy, and overall quality of life. (Plus, living in this limbo can also give your kids false hope for a reconciliation.)
And, even if you did want to birdnest for a longer period of time, do you actually have the excess funds to afford three living spaces? Some birdnesters even share the smaller, second space to save money – talk about too-close-for-comfort living. Since divorce is about decoupling, living in the same quarters (even at different times) doesn’t quite achieve that effect.
You’ve also got to be super-organized, and in some cases, really tolerant, for this arrangement to work. If you had a conflicted marriage, sharing a living space can fuel that discord – especially if you’re not crystal clear about chores (Who’s taking out the trash? Who’s mowing the lawn), the food shopping (Who ate all the food I bought for my week with the kids?) or paying bills (Wait, you didn’t pay the mortgage?). Or, if your ex leaves things behind and has to return to pick up their clothes, shoes, meds, toiletries, phone charger or laptop, that can be very intrusive.
OUR VERDICT ON BIRDNESTING
Thumbs down! While birdnesting could work short term, say while your family home is for sale, it isn’t sustainable for a longer term unless you have the funds to pay for a third home. Plus, if you retain the marital abode, you still share an asset with your ex – that doesn’t give you the clean break you really need. You’ll always be co-parenting exes, but sharing a living space will make it difficult for you to move on into other new adult relationships.
Questions? Call Us.
At Petrelli Previtera, our attorneys have helped clients come up with an appropriate living solution after divorce. We welcome you to call us with any questions or to seek advice on what might work for your family.