Bird nesting co-parenting couples separate or divorce

Birdnesting.  No, it’s not a bunch of birds getting together to drop an egg or two. Birdnesting, or nesting, is for parents with relationship issues to consider. Nesting co-parenting helps kids to stay in the family home while parents alternate between family home and other rental accommodation.

When a couple with children separate or divorce, they choose to move into their own accommodation and they take turns to stay with the kids in the family home. This allows children to experience less upheaval and be more settled in their familiar surroundings.


Minimise Stress for Children and Parents

Separation is difficult enough on a couple, but it’s distressing for the children to see their parents split up. Remaining in the family home helps to lower the stress for the kids and in the process, may also lower some of the stress of the parents. Many parents try hard to ease their children’s distress and look for ways to ease the grief after the breakdown of their relationship.

For nesting to work, a couple’s goal will be to provide a secure, stable home for their children. Staying in the family home helps children to ease into this difficult transition in their lives. By remaining in the home, nesting co-parenting helps kids to adapt and gives the children more stability.

This is a time of upheaval for your children. Be clear on rules and consistent with setting limits for the kids. Try to keep the routine and structure the same as much as possible. This will help your kids feel secure and contained.


important considerations in Nesting

For many couples, it won’t be easy to put aside emotions during this thorny period of change. Your plans, your desires, expectations, future dreams of what your life was going to look like, has now altered. You’re now making big decisions not only concerning yourself but also for your children.

A considered plan will need to be developed by yourself and your partner, with possible assistance from a counsellor, that details issues that could arise. For example, will both of you attend the same school event? What will happen if work impedes on the week that one of you is to be in the family home?

Money is a big factor in nesting. Each of you will need to pay half the rent, money for your own food, clothes, electricity and other sundries. Will you have a separate joint account which both of you will put money in towards the kids’ school excursions, or their school or sport uniforms? How will bills, such as rates and electricity, be paid?

If you share a rental accommodation, the agreement is that when one of you leaves to be the on-duty parent in the family home, the rental must be left clean and tidy. There also needs to be an agreement on privacy, such as not opening the other’s mail or not touching treasured items.


ideas on communication

Discuss how you will communicate with each other. How much interaction can you tolerate? If discussion is difficult between the both of you, how will you communicate? Email or text? Both of you will need to consider items in the plan carefully, so you can communicate these to each other.

Some of my clients have used a notebook. They write information about whether a child was sick yesterday, or if a child is attending a party on Saturday. The notebook is left in a kitchen drawer for the on-duty parent to read. It’s concealed from children’s prying eyes.

One important issue to discuss is about new relationships. For many couples who are seriously contemplating nesting and will be sharing the same rental, a discussion between the couple will need to occur about new relationships.

Daniel and Amelia (not their real names) separated. Daniel started a new relationship where he spent time in the ‘other’ house with his new partner during the week that he wasn’t living in the family home. Amelia asked Daniel to remove all evidence of his new relationship from her prior to her ‘week off’ stay. Otherwise it creates problems in an already uncomfortable relationship. Though separated, there can still be lingering feelings of connection for the other.



For some couples, a shared rental can work. For others, it may not work due to a number of factors. One client told me that her ex’s bed was uncomfortable and he also had gym equipment in the bedroom. She was fortunate she received a small inheritance which allowed her to purchase her own unit. She felt freer this way, and still maintained a courteous relationship with her ex, and would still return to the family home for her one week-on duty with the kids.

Some couples view nesting as a temporary measure, a few months or possibly two years. I know couples who separated, then divorced, when their kids were young. They chose to nest for many years while their kids went through primary, then high school, as they wanted to give their kids years of stability as their children developed emotionally and physically.

The kids grew used to the parents staying one week on, one week off. It meant that the kids did not have to carry their school clothes, school books, toys, non-school clothes and additional items to the other home. It is less disorderly and fracturing for the kids. As well, parents did not need to keep track of items going between homes. This hopefully creates a calmer situation for all.



  • some move into a separate living area of the home. Of course, this can increase an already strained relationship, as it may be difficult for the ‘off duty’ parent to switch off from parenting. They may impede the ‘on duty’ parent.
  • some couples use a couch at their office, for a few days or a few weeks, to have time to consider future rental options.
  • relatives or friends’ homes for a period of time.


Once couples experience the constant back and forth arrangements, they realise how difficult it can be for kids to move between homes.

Nesting allows space for a couple who are in transition in their relationship to decide if they will move towards a divorce or if they will work on reconciliation.


Reasons for Not having these Arrangements

  • If there is domestic violence in your relationship, then I do not recommend nesting. Violent behaviour is emotional abuse, sexual, physical, social, financial, stalking and spiritual abuse. See 1800RESPECT for more information.
  • Consider also if there are mental health, alcohol or drug issues that would be concerning if your children are left in your partner’s care.


Nesting is not for every couple. It takes determination, due diligence, good communication, awareness of your stress levels in this transition stage, not attempting to take advantage or outdo your partner (particularly to look good in front of your kids).

It takes a lot of trust and having the security and happiness of your children as the highest priority.

If you are unsure which direction to go, call or email me.

Article featured in Kidspot Parent magazine

Article featured in Kidspot, Australia’s No. 1 Parent Magazine

Janice WIlliams Counselling


Janice Williams is a Certified Mother-Daughter Relationship Specialist.

Janice offers in-person and online appointments. Online sessions are available across Australia and worldwide.

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