Bird's Nest Custody - UK Research by Co-op Legal Services

20 April 2016

'Bird's Nest Custody' is an American term used to describe shared child care arrangements by divorced or separated parents, and the term is being used more and more in the UK, according to new research by Co-op Legal Services.

We asked 750 separated or divorced parents in the UK about the arrangements they have made to care for their children since their relationship breakdown.

11% of the people we surveyed had decided to keep their children in the family home, whilst they shared the care of the children by taking turns living in the home with the children; hence the term 'bird's nest custody'.

There are many benefits for the children in a bird's nest custody arrangement. The children get to stay in the family home, they face less disruption to their lives and they get to spend time with both parents in the place they call home.

52% of our surveyed parents thought that keeping the children in the home would result in less interference in their lives and 16% would have preferred a bird's nest custody child care arrangement if they had about this option when they split up.

There does seem to be a geographical split of views on bird's nest custody though. 46% of the people based in London think it will become more popular, whilst 48% of those surveyed in the East Midlands think it’s unrealistic. 

Despite the geographical split in opinion, there are other clear benefits for keeping your children in the family home after a split. They can be near to their friends and stay at the same school, which a third of people in our research agreed would have been of benefit. Another 31% said that being near to their friends and their school would have made the split easier for them.

It is clear then why our surveyed parents thought that shared child care arrangements would increase in popularity, with 64% agreeing these would become a more frequent occurrence.

The benefits to the children in the relationship are clear, but our survey results show that there are other identifiable benefits to a bird's nest custody arrangement. The survey showed:

  • 18% agreed that it was good that they wouldn't have to sell their home when the market is not that strong
  • 25% said that it would be helpful to them to stay near to their family and their friends.

Some additional benefits for the children that were identified by our survey were:

  • 17% noted that their children can stay close to after school clubs
  • 15% recognised that less of a commute to school would be a positive.

Although the idea of still sharing a home with your ex-partner or spouse may not be that appealing, our research showed that 18% of people liked the idea and that more than half would even allow their ex to bring their new partner into the home.

There is no doubt that divorce and separation is disrupting for everyone involved, but particularly for the children. In the traditional model, they have to move between two houses depending on whether it is Mum or Dad's day to have them.

Shared care for the children, where the property is kept, means that the disruption is being taken on by the parents rather than the children and the parents can focus on looking after the children in a place they have always known.

The family law team at Co-op Legal Services have seen an increase in bird's nest custody child care arrangements.

The Head of Family Law said "Traditionally, couples separate and share the custody of their children but sell the family home and rent or buy a new house separately. This new type of shared child care arrangement means that the parents do the moving rather than the kids.

"Divorce and relationship breakdowns can be difficult times for families and this new arrangement for shared care focuses on the children's needs and requirements and puts the parents needs aside."

Co-op Legal Services offers initial legal advice without jargon about divorce, and the arrangements you want to make for your children and about the financial aspects of your divorce.

We offer fixed fees and once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work, that price will not change.

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