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How nesting may change child custody arrangements

Some California parents who are getting a divorce might be interested in a form of child custody known as bird nesting. This is an arrangement that allows children to stay in one place, often the family home, while the parents take turns living there with them.

Nesting works best with a few provisions in place. It can help if each parent has a separate place to go when not staying in the home. It may work better as a temporary arrangement with an agreed-upon timeline or at least an agreement for how to end the arrangement if one parent becomes unhappy with it. For example, parents might decide to stay in the home until a lease ends or until the house is worth more and they can put it on the market.

One couple found that different living arrangements, schedules and expectations meant that nesting was not successful for them. The father was able to spend his time out of the house with his parents where he had plenty of space, but the mother only had her sister's couch to sleep on. The father worked long hours away from home while the mother worked at home. The mother also said the father left housework undone.

Parents who cannot afford this arrangement or who experience too much conflict to make it work might adopt a number of other schedules. Studies have found that children do well in joint child custody situations even when it means they must move back and forth frequently between their parents' homes. Parents should try to create consistency between their homes with a clear parenting plan and an agreement on household rules. Their custody agreement may also include plans for holidays and vacations or at least deadlines by which these arrangements should be decided upon to reduce the likelihood of conflict.

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