How 'birdnesting' may make shared custody easier post-divorce

Regardless of how amicable a split is, the end of a marriage can present several challenges for anyone in Texas, especially when children are part of the picture. Unless sole custody is granted, children are likely to have to split their time between two homes. Some parents wishing to minimize this type of transition for their kids are exploring their options with what's termed "birdnesting."

Essentially, birdnesting is an arrangement where children remain in the marital home while each parent alternates time spent there. When not in the home, each parent residents in a separate home, or a jointly owned apartment nearby. Generally, such arrangements tend to work best when child custody terms have already been worked out. The motivation behind the birdnesting concept is to minimize disruption for children. However, it's not advised that parents continue with this setup indefinitely.

In fact, some experts suggest that birdnesting without a clear endpoint may give children the false hope that parents could be getting back together. One therapist suggests capping it at three months. Another option for parents is to clearly define how long the arrangement will last. For instance, parents might agree to share the marital home until a child finishes their current school year so they don't have to deal with a significant adjustment at an inconvenient time.

When done correctly, it's generally agreed that birdnesting can have some positive benefits. Kids tend to appreciate having time to come to terms with the fact that their parents are separating without being taken out of a familiar environment. From a practical point of view, children also won't have to worry about lugging belongings back and forth between two homes.

Even when a birdnesting arrangement is mutually agreed upon by both parents, it's possible for a custody dispute to occur. If this happens, an attorney might attempt to work out the issues without getting state agencies or the courts involved. If custody differences escalate or involve clear risks for the child, a lawyer may suggest seeking sole custody. An attorney can also take steps to obtain overdue or incomplete support payments.

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