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

Posted Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Litigation Strategy, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, Visitation

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.

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

  1. 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.

    1. Liz says:

      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!

      1. Lane says:

        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.

      2. Ashley says:

        I work 24 on and 48 off. My ex and I have an agreement he will kid our child on the morning that I work. I will pick the child up when I get off work the next morning. I am flexible with that. Getting off shift at 8am sometimes I want to nap a few and he keeps our child, sometimes I pick him up as soon as I get home, other times I run errands and pick him up around lunch. He also keeps him for any extra shifts I pick up or am forced to work. I also allow him 1 full weekend each month: Friday @6pm until Monday @6pm. He picks which weekend.
        That being said, this is only a “guide” to have some sort of structure and to try to avoid conflict. If he has something going on on “my time” he simply tells me when, what, and where and I usually allow my child to go. If I take a day off or trade shifts I simply keep the child during that time.
        We follow our local courts holiday schedule.
        He also works 3rd shift, so we do not follow first right of refusal. We have a shared sitter and also depend on friends and family to watch him while we work
        We just make sure to communicate to each other where the child is and who is caring for the child.

  2. Stacey says:

    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!!!

  3. Pat says:

    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.

    1. Richard says:

      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?

      1. Garrett Herzberg says:

        I am trying to work on a good schedule for 24/48 as well, any ideas? I have until January 10th 2020 to figure this out.

  4. Garrett D Herzberg says:

    I am trying to work on a good schedule for 24/48 as well, any ideas? I have until January 10th 2020 to figure this out.

  5. Erin says:

    My soon to be ex husband and I are currently figuring this out as he is a FF with 24hrs on/48hrs off. Since our separation we have been doing 3 day/4 day week rotations. So obviously every week I have kids when he works. One week he will have them 4 days and I will habe them 3 and then the next week it switches.

    This works, for now, because we live 10 minutes from each other. What stinks is that kids wake up at 5;15 to be dropped off at my place on his way to station and they do go back and forth throughout school week. We do however do a very good job keeping consistent school night routines and communication to make it as less hectic as possible.

    My concern is this….how are we going to do this if we move or meet a new person and live further away…. His address is being considered as primary custodian since the house is in great school district and a mile from their school which they are very well adjusted in…..but what if he moves or I move….

    Any suggestions on thinking forward as we put things down on paper for divorce? We are self filimg because everything has been amicable but I don’t want to feel screwed either down the road or vice versa….

    1. Katy says:

      My ex is a FF and we separated 8 years ago. When we split up our kids were both under 3 years of age, so a couple years ago when they became school age, we had our parenting schedule reworked. Now our schedule works like this: 4-2-1-2. Four days with me, 2 days with him, 1 day with me (shift day), 2 days with him. This pattern continues throughout the entire year. In addition, he drops them off at my house at 8pm every night before a shift day because he has to be at work before they can be dropped off at school. This worked pretty well for about 5 years, but now that my children are older the back and forth isn’t working so well. They want to be at my house during the school week because they’re close to friends and school. My ex lives about 15 minutes away, but it’s just far enough to make them feel removed from their social lives. Anyway, hope the 4-2-1-2 schedule suggestion helps!

      1. Becky says:

        My ex (he is a FF) and I share custody 50/50. Our schedule is a 12 day rotating schedule. 4-2-1-2-1-2: starting with 4 days at my house, 2 at her dads, 1 day with me (shift), 2 days at her dads, 1 with me (shift) 2 at dads…then starts all over again. It ends up being really close to 50/50 every month give or take a day but it evens out in the end. My ex’s schedule at work is 7am to 7am so he drops her off at my house at 6am on shift mornings and then he picks her up at 8am when he gets off work on his days off….or he picks her up from school. We recently had an issue with summer plans because most of his off days (except 4/month) he has our daughter and he is complaining that he can’t get anything done on his off days and wants to send her to full day camp this summer instead of watching her on his off days. Ugh!

        1. Jonathan says:

          Starting to run into that problem. We don’t have a “set schedule” because of my rotating schedule 24/48. She works 8-5 Monday- friday. So as of now I have our kid mon- fri when I’m not on shift. Some days are all day/night, other days ex will pick her up after work at 530pm. So even on “her days” during the week, I still have her all day, and she has her for the 2 hours before bedtime. So some weeks I will work sunday, have her M-T, work W, have her Th-F and split the wknd. While I obviously dont want to pay for a sitter when I’m not working, it literally leave me 1-2 nights a week to get anything done. I want more of a set schedule instead of just winging in. And it works now because we live 10 mins apart but the house is going for sale soon

        2. Jonathan says:

          Becky, where do the 4 days at the beginning come in? It seems like the 2-1-2-1-2 8 day rotation would give you guys 4/4 split on the 8 day cycle. Doesn’t you getting the 4 days in a row throw that off?

  6. Grant says:

    Does anyone do a 36/36 schedule? I work b shift, so my ex would have our twins 7pm the night before my shift, until 7 am the day after my shift, and then I would have them my first day off and the then until 7 pm my second day off. it works out as a perfect 5050, she argues its too much back and forth, but im finding that’s the nature of the beast with the Chicago schedule

  7. Steven says:

    Im a firefighter. I work 24 on 48 off. best schedule i could come up with. me – 5. her- ex- 4..
    Im on shift my 3rd day and Exs 1st and 4th day on on shift. rotation is 5,4,5,4. This way i can take off 1 shift and have 5 straight days with my kids. my new wife only has my kids 1 night by her self. hope this helps

    1. Tomeka says:

      Who keeps the child when you work the 24 hours of your 5 days with the child?

  8. Lisa says:

    Hi , does anyone have a FF with a 24 on 24 off 5 day on 4 day off rotation? I would love some equal time sharing advice!

    1. Paige Deathe says:

      Looking for tips on this as well.

    2. Robyn says:

      Same! I’m trying to figure this out now w/my FF soon-to-be ex, and it’s frying my brain.

  9. Cortney says:

    Hello. Looking for suggestions on a schedule for my sons father who works a 24/72 rotating schedule as a FF, along with a full time 8-5 M-F job. I work in a restaurant so I’m able to have flexible shifts every week that accommodates to his work schedule, but it definitely affects my income when I’m unable to work busy weekend/night shifts. Our son is 3 and is in daycare 3 days a week. I’m doing my best to come up with a fair schedule for us but it has been extremely challenging. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!!

    1. Grandma says:

      I am also looking for any solution ideas for the California 24 on/24 off/ 24 on/ 24 off/ 24 on/ 92 off schedule. My son works in a city with a 12 fire/12 para split and is absolutely brutal. His ex is a RN with her own variable schedule. They live across the country from our entire family but near hers (they are unpredictably helpful). They used to live less than 10m apart, she moved w/o notice 47 miles away. She has daycare, he pays half of that. He has the children (3 and 4 yo) 72 hours straight, no break. It’s been over 2 years. In general, she is not reasonable to mediation and all legal decisions have been a battle. She has been pushing for him to change careers and have week on/week off custody. It’s brutal and other than remarrying (hard to date and honestly, who’d want this lol?) I don’t see an easy solution. It’s been a heartbreaking few years. I fly into town about 6 times per year to hang with my grands and help give him a break.

      I’m already bracing for the war over school districts. I am seriously considering reconfiguring my retirement to relocate to be able to pick up/drop off/be back up for my grandkids. My intention was always to do this casually, I just it would be where I currently live. This could allow 50/50 which is the states goal, balance out the child support (he currently pays because custody is 70/30, she actually earns more) and strengthen the argument to choose his school district which is significantly better. I would keep track of my time and she would have to pay half. Financially, it would not be a strain. Some weeks I’d barely be needed.
      Even though I don’t see it as a sacrifice, it just isn’t what I thought I’d be doing. I know this long, but honestly, nobody other than first responders seen to understand this challenge. My grandkids love me and honestly was all my hard work worth it if they suffer? 😞

      Thank you for reading.

  10. Lance says:

    Looking for any insight any fathers have on a California schedule. One on One off One on One off One on Four off

  11. Tomya Crenshaw says:

    My son has a 2 year old and the judge gave the mother full custody in California. It’s really sad and said it was because hes a FF and he’s 24. He feels hopeless. Any ideas on any attorneys or scheduling

  12. Michelle says:

    Hi, I am here looking for help. My soon to be ex-husband is a FF he works 24 on 2 days off, 24 on 4 days off and that rotates each week (i.e if he works Monday and Thursday, the following week he works Tuesday and Friday). I am a nurse and work 7-7 rotating between day shift and night shift 3 days a week with a 3 weekend shift requirement each month. I am overwhelmed and confused as to what custody would look like. Our kids are 15 and 13, both with sports and busy social lives. I can’t imagine having them switch houses every few days and the amount of disruption this will cause them. It is heartbreaking.

  13. Anne Barrie says:

    Your situation is the same as my daughters except that my daughter has 2 younger children as well, so 4 kids altogether. Please advise as to how you resolve this issue- just heartbreaking for the kids!

  14. Ali says:

    I’m wondering if this schedule would help make sense? One week on / one week off
    On FF days the other parent is set to pick up those days . One the final week of the non FF, they “give” them two days back that they covered for FF days on their final week/ weekend.

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