Bird-Nesting: A Separation and Divorce Co-Parenting Option


Like so many other couples in their late 30’s and early 40’s, my kids’ dad and I have decided that our romantic relationship is no longer viable. Our individual story is not of particular importance, although I will say that separation, for us, was something a long time coming, and was a decision made for our mutual present and future happiness. Not all separations, and ultimately divorces, are as amicable. We are fortunate that ours is one where we can communicate and act effectively as co-parents

South Carolina is a state definitely set apart, and divorce law is a prime example of this. In order to obtain a no-fault divorce, the parties must live separately for one full year. This is a tedious and expensive pre-requisite to what many couples know is an inevitable end to their relationship. It is one reason why the road to my own separation has been so long. We just couldn’t figure out how to afford to do so.

For the last few years, as our marriage headed towards the path of separation and divorce, we continued to cohabitate and come and go as the other parent’s schedule allowed. This was generally feasible and it worked. Some separated couples call this “nesting” – when both parents continue to share the home, workload, and parenting, but live separate lives romantically. 

This year, however, my kids’ dad found a partner in Charlotte, which resulted in him basically staying there most weekends. This was not a sustainable parenting schedule for us, and we decided it would be better for both us and our kids to officially announce our separation and come up with a new plan for co-parenting our children.

The solution we came up with is called Bird-Nesting.

The kids continue to live in the family home, and the parents switch in and out. Because their dad’s other place is a bit of a commute, for us this looks like: dad is “on duty” Thursday and Friday of one week, and Saturday and Sunday of the following week. We do have some overlap as he is coming and going, and this has been great for communicating about the kids, finances, the house, and all the other elements of continuing to divide a life that was shared for so many years.

On days when he is “on duty” I have time for myself to run errands, explore the city, rediscover who I am when I’m not “Mom,” and even date. This is great for my mental health, but has a lot of advantages for the kids and their dad as well. They now have dedicated time each week where they have his full attention, and vice versa. Relationships with pre-teens and teenagers can be hard, as they spend so much time pulling away, even as we, as parents, know they need us more than ever to be present. 

Our kids are 10, 12, and 14. We were, as many parents are, not quite sure how they would respond to separation and divorce. But, so far, things have gone surprisingly well. I think having the stability of staying in the home they are accustomed to without a lot of back and forth helps. Since I have been, and continue to be, the primary parent, not a lot for them has changed.

I can’t explain it, but I have found a lot of peace and renewed energy since we have started the bird-nesting schedule, and I hope it is a solution that continues to work for us as we navigate this time of separation and, eventually, divorce.

Bird-nesting is not a solution that will likely work for high-conflict separations or where the parents cannot co-parent amicably. If you are considering separation and divorce and feel a bit stuck (rent and real estate prices and interest rates have made physical separation particularly challenging) maybe bird-nesting could be a viable solution.

Have you tried bird-nesting? How did it work for you?

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Katrina Siron
Katrina is a mom of three great kids and has been married to her first love for nearly 10 years. She’s grateful to have a job that allows her the flexibility to both work from home some days and in the office others. On the surface, Katrina is pretty crunchy – she loves breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, natural birth, and homeschooling — but still loves her stroller, having her kids in their own beds at some point, her epidural was fantastic, and she’ll be sending the kids through public school. Most of all she loves the fact that we have all these choices, which makes life interesting! One of her favorite experiences was moving to Japan in 2002 to live as an adult dependent with their USMC family. It was an amazing experience, and if it weren’t for that, she probably wouldn’t ever have met my husband.


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