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Is bird nest parenting right for you?

What if, when parents got a divorce, the kids could keep the house?

With the kids comfortably in the home that they've always known, like baby birds in a nest, the parents can take turns visiting them -- instead of shuffling the kids back and forth between houses?

To some people, the whole idea sounds crazy -- but it's a plan that has worked well for others because the children benefit from having their lives disrupted as little as possible despite the divorce. Before you consider it, however, you and your spouse have to answer a few crucial questions:

1. Is there a good reason to try this? It isn't the easiest method of post-divorce parenting, so understand your motivation. If it's because either of you thinks this is a good alternative to losing the house or the illusion of married life, forget it. If it's because you're both worried about disrupting the social and educational life of teens already going through some difficult years, putting stress on an autistic child who may not respond well to changing environments or another child-focused reason, you've got the right motivation to continue.

2. Can you and your spouse agree on how to handle the rental space you'll share when it isn't your turn in the family home? Unless you can afford three residences, which is unlikely, you'll probably rotate back and forth between the family home and a shared apartment. That means agreeing on a whole separate set of house rules, including firm boundaries about intruding on the other person's private space.

3. Can you agree on the finances -- both repair costs and tax benefits -- associated with the family home? Some couples can easily sort these things out, while others have to negotiate long and hard over each detail -- either way, those issues can't be decided on the fly.

4. Can you and your ex-spouse still parent together? This is probably the biggest question you face. Bird nest parenting won't provide a stable environment if the "house rules" change depending on who is home at the moment. If you've never presented a united parenting front, you probably can't do it now either.

Bird nest parenting is a unique type of custody agreement that works well when spouses have grown apart but haven't forgotten how to work together. If this is something that interests you, your attorney can provide more information.

Source: Equitable Mediation, "Pros and Cons of Bird Nesting Divorce Plans," Joe Dillon, Divorce Mediator, accessed June 20, 2017

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