The “Birds Nest Approach” or “Nesting arrangement” is a shared child arrangement that sees the children staying in the family home after the parents decide to separate. This sees the parents moving around the children rather than the usual arrangement of moving the children between houses.
This is usually used as a short-term solution while the separating parents continue to share the family home as their main residence, or where one of the parents has moved out and is yet to set up a permanent or suitable home elsewhere.
IS A NESTING ARRANGEMENT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILDREN?
This will be different for each family. A nesting arrangement can decrease the immediate impact of the parent’s separation on the children. This can cause less disruption to their daily routines. However, there are some concerns that the arrangement could cause confusion for the children and prevent them from coming to terms and fully understanding their parent’s separation.
RECENT CASE LAW
We look at the recent case of A, B and C (Children: Nesting Arrangement) where the court considered nesting arrangements. The family had settled on an arrangement which saw the parent’s sharing the care of their 3 children equally. They took it in turns to vacate the family home, leaving the other parent at home to care for the children.
The father wanted the nesting arrangement to continue but the mother supported a move towards shared living arrangements between two households. The children each wanted to remain living in the former family home.
Both parents had a view on how the nesting arrangement would affect the children. The father believed this was in their best interest as it provided the children with a stable and consistent base, it ensured they remained together in their family home, and this also reflected how they lived prior to the relationship breaking down.
The mother however, said she found the father a frightening man who would always get his way. She said she did not feel able to sustain the nesting arrangement and that shared living arrangements in two separate houses would be in their best interests. The judge confirmed that there was more than enough money to sort out this arrangement.
After hearing both sides, an independent social worker decided that the children should balance their time between both parents in separate homes. In his report he mentioned that nesting arrangements can work well and be of benefit to all when the parents are in agreement. However, where parental conflict remains, the outcome is less likely to be as positive.
He reported that the current arrangements were not in the children’s best interests due to the ongoing discord between the parents. He believed if the current arrangement were to continue that this would adversely affect the children’s relationship with their mother.
The judge concluded that the nesting arrangement had overextended the time in which it had been helpful to the children and was now giving false promise to them as to the reality of the parent’s separation. It also prevented the children from spending quality time with their mother and was adversely affecting her ability to be a good mother to them.
The order allowed the mother to have overnight care of the children in her new home. The father made an appeal, but this was unsuccessful.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NESTING ARRANGEMENTS?
This case suggests that at the judicial level there is a view that nesting arrangements are only beneficial when serving a family in the short term. The driving motivation for such an arrangement is to maintain as much normality for the children as possible during the early stages of a relationship breakdown. However, where the parents struggle to get along and crave the privacy of two separate homes, a nesting arrangement can quickly lose its effectiveness.
If you would like to discuss any points in this article further or are looking for legal advice relating to the breakdown of a relationship or child arrangements, please contact our Family team at Spire Solicitors LLP on 01603 677077.