Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cohabiting After Divorce - A Growing Trend

Is "birdnesting" -- sharing a home after divorce -- a practical solution or terrible idea?

Celebrities do it. Regular folks do it too. More and more divorced couples from all walks of life are "birdnesting," an arrangement in which a husband and wife share and rotate in and out of the same home even after their marriage has dissolved.

Birdnesting as a Solution to Financial Pressures

Financial exigencies sometimes play a role in the decision to birdnest. When a house is heavily mortgaged or when a spouse is having career difficulties, sharing it can prevent financial losses or foreclosure and the disruptive impact these events would have on children.

In one case, a New York private school teacher birdnested with his wife for a year after marriage. He described it as "a tough year," with each ex- sometimes staying on a friend's couch on his or her "night off" from the apartment. But the year of birdnesting enabled them to avoid a rushed sale and helped them and their son adjust to the divorce.

Birdnesting to Preserve a Family

Finances are not always an issue. Some parents feel that some degree of cohabitation is important for their children. Gwyneth Paltrow sometimes stays with her ex-, Coldplay singer Chris Martin. They are known for calling their divorce "conscious uncoupling," a concept said to originate with Katherine Woodward Thomas, a divorced mother who lives near her ex-husband in the same apartment building.

One divorced couple in New Jersey decided they would always have meals together at their home, though the father had moved out. They wanted their 8-year child to feel they were still a family, despite their marital split.

Ex-Spouses May Not Be The Best Roommates

Some birdnesting arrangements work better than others, and much depends upon the circumstances. One woman who rotated in and out of a studio apartment with her ex- while their children stayed put described the arrangement as extremely stressful. She said it didn't feel like she had a home, and many of the issues that had led to the divorce persisted. In some cases, an ex-spouse can be the worst roommate imaginable.

The trend does show, however, there may be ways to remain civil during a divorce and to salvage some sense of continuity for the benefit of children. If you are considering separation or divorce but worried about its impact on your finances and your family, an experienced matrimonial attorney can help you explore your options and find workable solutions.

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