While each co-parenting situation is unique, most divorced parents in New Jersey either share custody, or assign one parent to be the primary residential custodian. Giving one parent primary custody is the more popular option, mainly because it gives the children a sense of consistency and security. If at all possible, parents try to maintain the former marital home as the residence of the children and the primary custodian, while the non-custodial parent lives at a separate residence.
Both shared and primary custodial agreements require the children to be shuttled back and forth between two households, which can be a difficult adjustment for all the involved parties. Children, who have already experienced the breakdown of their parent's marriage, are especially affected by disruptions to their normal routine. A new co-parenting method, referred to as “bird nesting”, attempts to minimize such disruptions by having the children live in one home on a permanent basis, while the parents take turns living in the home with them. The parents can either maintain two separate residences, or two residences in addition to the main family home, so that each parent has his or her own place to go to when they're not with the children. The latter option, however, is not financially feasible for most divorced couples.
Bird nesting may sound great in theory, but it does require a high level of civility and cooperation between the parents. After all, the parents would need to work through complicated issues such as where to live, how many households to maintain, how much each party will contribute, and the allocation of household chores and responsibilities. In addition, they will have to be in total agreement on how to raise the children, especially when it comes to discipline. Even if you get past these issues, you have to consider the chaos that can result from having to move back and forth between two homes on a frequent basis. For a parent that works long hours or travels throughout the year, this is not likely to be a workable arrangement.
The fact that the family courts do not recognize bird nesting as a custody arrangement is another important consideration. Interested parents would have to work out a plan privately with assistance from a third party professional such as a mediator or collaborative divorce attorney. Each parent should also have his or her own divorce attorney to ensure that their individual interests are fully protected. Regardless of which parenting plan you choose, it's important to work out as many details as possible in your initial parenting plan. Making arrangements for things like teenage expenses, college tuition and summer vacation schedules ahead of time can save you considerable time and aggravation in the future. It also allows you to give your children the support and security they deserve, no matter what changes occur in either you or your spouse's life. For more information on your custody and visitation rights, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.