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Visitation schedules for firefighters (or anyone who works 24-hours on/48-hours off)

One can always tell when an attorney has failed to really focus on his or her client when a parent who works a 24-hours on/48-hours off work schedule ends up with an every-other-weekend visitation schedule. Such visitation schedules doom such workers to parenting failure.

The every-other-weekend visitation schedule is predicated on the idea that both parents either do not work weekends, have the same work schedule every other weekend, or have an irregular weekend work schedule. The goal is to give both parents equal quality time with the child during times when the child does not have school obligations and responsibilities.

However for parents who work a 24-hours on/48-hours off work schedule, a bi-weekly visitation schedule is suboptimal. Such parents have a regular weekend work schedule but it cycles every three, rather than every two, weeks. In an every-other-weekend schedule, they will be working at least one twenty-four hour period in two-thirds of the weekends they get and will not be working at all in half the weekends they don’t get.

For such workers, a schedule that cycles every three weeks makes better sense. Rather than giving them the whole weekend half the time, they are better off getting the whole weekend a third of the time and half the weekend either the other third or two-thirds of the time (depending upon how generous the other parent is and on whether the other parent has work responsibilities in which having the whole weekend every third week interferes with his or her own work schedule).

Ideally the parent who works 24-on/48-off can get a day adjoining his or her half weekend. For example, the weekends that parent returns to work on Saturday, that parent could get from Thursday to Saturday. For the weekends that parent returns to work on Tuesday, that parent could get from Sunday to Tuesday. This gives the parent a school day that adjoins the weekend but on a school day in which that parent does not work.

For any parent whose work schedule operates on a 21-day cycle, a visitation schedule that operates on a 21-day schedule is much more conducive to exercising meaningful time with the child. Failing to recognize that such parents cannot meet the responsibilities of an every-other-weekend visitation schedule is a failure of lawyering.

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  • I find that there are more and more of my clients with work schedules other than the normal 9-5. It is particularly problematic with a situation where the parties agree that the non-primary placement parent should have more than every other weekend. I recently had a case where the father’s schedule rotated every three weeks but so did the mother’s but in a different way. It was so confusing we had to draw calendar after calendar to try and figure out the best plan for the kids and the parents. In another case, with a fire fighter as the opposing party, I wanted to strangle him because he thought he should have ALL of his days off with the children to the detriment of my client having quality time with them when she was off, because she had them the majority of the time. Regardless if most of her time with them was long enough int he evenings to feed bathe and get in the bed. Every visitation case these days seems to present a unique set of facts that warrant a close look by the attorneys to prevent future arguments and litigation.

    • Liz

      What did your client end up doing? This soundx very similar to my situation and I have no clue on how to compromise with him on a schedule. There are of course outside circumstances that go into play, but a general idea coil help me in figuring out what kind of schedule to go for with my future ex husband. Thank you!

      • Lane

        I’m currently separated and we had a good plan lined out that enabled us to share kids equally. Since there are three shifts, they are broken down into A, B and C shifts. I’m on C shift so obviously she gets them that day. I took B shift as my day with them. So, A shift is what I labeled as the “alternate” day. Meaning I get them every other A shift. Once you figure out the routine it’s not bad at all.

        Except in my case now, where she’s moving about 100 miles away and has thrown everything into a mess.

  • Stacey

    My ex is firefighter and works 24 on/48 off. For the last three years he has made a visitation calendar picking 10-12 a month and given it to me with no problems of changing a few days here and there for whatever reason. Well I’ve got a boyfriend now and he’s making life miserable with the visitation calendar. He argues over ever date, makes it impossible every month. I’m looking for an alternative to the normal default because his schedule prohibits that from happening correctly. Help!!!

  • Pat

    I am a firefighter and i have residential custody over my son which is now 6. I work 24 hrs 48 off. We have a 50/50 split custody agreement where the ex gets my son every day i work which is about 10 days per month, then she chooses about 5 more days where it splits the month 15 days each. This is an impossible schedule for a Kindergartner going to \school. I would much rather see a week by week or her getting visitation every wednesday and every other weekend. Any comments or thoughts for a better schedule.

    • Richard

      I’m going through the same thing as you Pat, I’m also a FF obviously. Have you had any luck finding a better scheduling system?

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