Everyone knows what “nesting” means in the context of being pregnant, but what does it mean in the context of custody?  By definition, a bird’s nest custody arrangement is a shared physical custody schedule, whereby, children reside in one residence instead of being transferred between the two separate residences’ of the parents.  For example, instead of a child living with Dad in his household for one week and then being transferred to Mom’s residence for the next week, the child remains in the same household for both weeks while Mom and Dad rotate in and out of the household.  So, when Mom is present in the house, Dad is absent, and when Dad is present in the house, Mom is absent.  The reason behind this type of schedule is to provide the child with a stable living environment during a tumultuous time; however, it is not a particularly common custody arrangement and is not awarded unless both parents request it.

What are the “pros” of a bird’s nest custody schedule?  From the child’s standpoint, there are no custody exchanges outside of the child’s household, which eliminates the loss or misplacement of favorite clothing articles, makeup items, toys, binkies, etc.  Additionally, communication between the parents may become easier, as each can leave notes for the other in the household before exchanges, instead of interacting in formal communication exchanges.  Finally, since the residence of the child remains the same, the child’s sporting activities, extracurricular activities and social life need not be interrupted due to a custody exchange and household transfer.

What are the “cons” of a bird’s nest custody schedule?  First, it can be quite costly to institute such a custody schedule, as the family will need to finance three separate households, i.e., the child’s, Mom’s, and Dad’s.  Second, if one or both parents have moved on to other relationships, those individuals will also be impacted by the parents’ living arrangements.  And finally, in order for this type of custody schedule to be successful, both parents need to be amicable toward each other, for they will need to share bill paying, grocery shopping, household chores, etc.

For a bird’s nest custody schedule to truly be successful, the parents’ residences and the child’s residence must be in close proximity to one another.  A good rule of thumb is that each residence should be no more than a twenty minutes’ drive away from the others.  Any more than that and geography and traffic headaches will become a strain on the custody schedule.  But most importantly, for a bird’s nest custody schedule to work and be beneficial to the child, it must create less disruption in the life of the child, in direct consequence to the disruption it is sure to cause in the parent’s lives.  If both parents can make the needed sacrifices, both financially and with their individual living arrangements, then a bird’s nest custody schedule may be the best custody choice.


Boyanowski, CCara A. Boyanowski concentrates her practice in the field of domestic law and wills and estates.  As a domestic law practitioner, she represents clients in simple and complex divorce, support, custody, alimony, step-parent adoptions, name change and same-sex divorce and custody matters.  She works out of Obermayer’s Harrisburg, PA office and can be reached at 717-234-5315 or at Cara.Boyanowski@obermayer.com.