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What is 'bird's nest custody?'

Increasingly, divorcing parents share joint custody of their children, with the kids spending roughly the same amount of time with each parent. Usually this means that the kids go back and forth between their two parents' homes.

Conscientious parents generally work to help ensure that their kids feel like both residences are "home." This may mean having duplicate sets of electronics and a full set of clothes at both locations to minimize the amount of schlepping of belongings that the kids have to do as they make the weekly (or otherwise predetermined) transition.

Some parents, however, have chosen to take a different approach to joint custody to make things easier for their kids. It's called "bird's nest custody." With this arrangement, the kids remain in the primary residence while the parents move in and out as they make the custody transition.

Of course, here in New York City, maintaining three separate residences (one primary home and one for each parent) can be prohibitively expensive. There are other options. One man who had a bird's nest custody arrangement with his wife says that after they first separated, the two maintained a small apartment that they took turns living in as they rotated in and out of the family home to be with their kids. If the parents have nearby family or friends that they can reside with on their "off" weeks, that could help cut housing costs.

Bird's nest custody certainly wouldn't work for every family. However, if your children only have another year or two of school before going off to college, it may be worth the inconvenience to you to keep them close to their school, friends and other activities. It doesn't have to be a permanent arrangement, but something you can try while everyone is still getting used to the new normal. Your New York family law attorney can provide some guidance on how to set up such a custody arrangement and perhaps offer advice on how to help the arrangement succeed.

Source: Truece, "Bird’s Nest Custody Helps a Family Move Forward," Robert K. Mohr, accessed April 20, 2016

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