One of the most difficult aspects of parenting under a child custody or divorce court order is being able to manage the requirements of the parenting plan contained within the order. To be sure, many people who are parents go into a child custody or divorce case assuming that they will end up suffering a great deal in terms of not being able to see their children very often. For the most part, this is not the case. A joint managing conservatorship allows for parents who are not married and living together to be able to share decision-making capabilities, duties to the children, and time with the children. While no system is perfect these court orders attempt to do their best at managing the expectation of parties and doing what is in the best interests of the children.
If you are a shift worker like a doctor, nurse, first responder, firefighter, or police officer then today’s blog post has been written with you in mind. I have been asked many times over the years how a parent like this can get a fair shake and a fair deal in your visitation arrangement with your Co-parent and children after a divorce or child custody case ends. The assumption is that because you work a regular hour and have a very specific schedule on top of that, no visitation schedule will ever be able to accommodate you in the needs of your family. Not only will you suffer from not being able to see your children, but they will suffer from not being able to spend sufficient time with you.
The trouble with relying upon what other people talk about or what you read online is that you never know how those general impressions of a situation will apply specifically to your family. Not only are you an individual with specific circumstances that impact you uniquely, but your family can also say the same thing about themselves. Do not underestimate just how significantly the unique circumstances and factors for your family can have impacts, both good and bad, on your family dynamics. How well you and your Co-parent share visitation with your children are only one of those dynamics.
It can be frustrating to find yourself in a position where you have dedicated your life to serving others and find that the system, we have in place does not necessarily guarantee accommodation for your unique needs when it comes to balancing your work life and your home life. While nothing comes before your children the reality is that your work is also critical to who you are as well as the community that you serve. Wanting to balance your home life with your work life is not the same thing as having your cake and eating it too. Rather, balancing work life and home life is necessary for your mental health and your well-being. To try to argue otherwise would be simply untrue.
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to share with you some thoughts on how first responders, shift workers, and public service employees can improve their chances of being able to balance their work commitments and need to spend time with their children. As we go on, I will share with you the perspective of our law office when it comes to being able to negotiate, manage and co-parent under a visitation order from a family court.
Questions about the material shared in today’s blog post it can be addressed to the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. If you are facing unique circumstances in terms of being a shift worker or other person with an atypical work-life balance, then you need to reach out to our attorneys today. So we can guide you on how to best proceed given your specific circumstances and give you the tools to go into a family law case positioned well to achieve both success and equity in your parenting orders.
What is a joint managing conservator? Given that I have already utilized the legal term I would like to describe that term now. A joint managing conservatorship describes the division of parenting rights and duties for two people after they family law case. Whether you are a parent in a child custody or divorce case if you have children under the age of 18 you will need to determine how to divide up parenting obligations when it comes to your children. Those parenting obligations include rights and duties. Let’s walk through what rights and duties meaning relation to minor children before we go any further.
Parenting rights typically mean the right to decide on behalf of children. Minor children are not legally capable of making decisions for themselves. As a result, you as their parent have the right to make certain decisions for them. Most notably these would be in the areas of education, psychiatric care, and general health. As a parent, you would have the ability to make decisions on the child’s behalf.
In connection with a family law case your ability to make these sorts of decisions would now be memorialized in a document known as a court order. A court order regarding visitation, child custody, and general conservatorship issues is extremely detailed. Many pages of your court order will reflect the parenting plan that you and your Co-parent either agreed to mediation or were provided by a family court judge after a trial. Co-parenting is a buzzword in the family law world it just means working together with your ex-spouse to raise a child. Some people find that Co-parenting is easier compared to others. Overall, when we think about parenting a huge part of the equation is communication. Even before we begin to discuss how you as a shift worker can be impacted by visitation scenarios the truth is that if you are an alright good communicator, you can overcome just about any challenge you encounter regarding shared parenting time.
With that said, shared parenting time needs that you must be able to manage your expectations and see your case from the perspective of your Co-parent. When you live a busy life with a busy work schedule this can be easier said than done. However, I can point you towards some perspectives and information that will hopefully assist you in being able to manage your expectations and act in ways that are third towards promoting the best interests of your children.
Remember that what is in the best interest of your child may not necessarily be what you want. As much as we can make decisions for our children when they are young like we just discussed, the reality is when it comes to sharing parenting time with our kids what we want may not necessarily be what the child wants or what the child needs. Undoubtedly this is a difficult situation to work through for any family. When you add on to that the challenges associated with being a shift worker, first responder prior fighter, or police officer then those challenges become even more acute. Here is some information for you to bear in mind as you consider your circumstances involving first responder and shift worker divorce cases.
Do you lose primary custody automatically if you have an irregular work schedule?
A common question that parents ask about their ability to maintain a strong relationship with their children after a divorce or child custody case is to what extent their work schedule will play a role in determining the visitation schedule that is created. There are two ways that visitation schedules get created in family law cases: the first is through negotiation between you and your Co-parent. The second is determined when a family court judge issues a court order after a trial. Either way, the court orders will be strictly enforced and as a result, we need to figure out what role your work schedule will have to play when it comes to your visitation and conservatorships arrangements.
As I just indicated, there is a very good chance that a family court judge will not have the final say-so when it comes to your parenting schedule with your children. On the contrary, you and your Co-parent will have ample opportunity to negotiate upon the court orders that ultimately are set in place for your case. The only question is a matter of whether the two of you will put forth the effort and set aside your differences enough to settle your case rather than have a family court judge play tiebreaker.
If you and your Co-parent are not able to settle the outstanding issues in your case a family court judge would be the last recourse that you all could choose to take advantage of in your situation. The family court judge would listen to testimony, review documentary evidence and consider the circumstances of your case in the general period from there, the judge would decide terms of how to divide up conservatorship rights and duties as well as parenting time with your child period from there, those orders would be the law of the land as far as you and your Co-parent are concerned.
When it comes to a judge deciding on behalf of your children it is not your wishes, the wishes of your Co-parent, or your work schedule that matters most. Further, it is the best interest of your child that is the most important to a family court judge. The best interest standard is one that attempts to look at your child’s current circumstances, their future needs, as well as their emotional and physical development to determine what type of arrangement works best for them. Your history as a parent and your involvement in their life is as least as important to many judges as your work schedule.
It would be dishonest to say that a family court judge would not consider your work schedule when determining a parenting plan or a visitation schedule. Of course, if you work a regular hour and cannot be relied upon to always be present for your children then that may be a factor that is not in your favor when determining primary custody of your kids. On the other hand, if you have that challenge but have always managed to be there for your kids and otherwise take advantage of the time that you have with them then this too may be a factor in your favor. Therefore, family court judges need to consider a wide range of factors and considerations when determining custody. Each judge has their notions of what the best interests of their child are. Depending on the judge, your work schedule may be more or less important than other considerations.
Conservatorships rights being just as much as parenting time
Another important consideration to make regarding child custody and divorce cases for people like you with a regular work schedule is that while it is normal to be concerned with the amount of time that you spend with your children the reality is that you should not overlook the importance of being able to make decisions on behalf of your children. So many parents focus their attention primarily on parenting time that the important issues regarding the conservative ship fall completely by the wayside. Do not get lost in the weeds regarding your focus solely being on the visitation period rather, remember that conservatorships issues also extremely important especially for a parent like you who may not be able to spend as much time with your children as you would like to begin with a period
An example of this consideration would be regarding medical visits for your child with their primary care doctor. An important distinction to make in this regard has to do with being able to take your child to the doctors’ visits and also being able to make decisions for your child regarding their medical care. Just because you are not always able to take your child to the doctor does it mean that you also waive your ability to help make decisions on behalf of your child regarding the medical care that they do receive. Do not assume that even if you are not named as your child’s primary parent you will not have any authority to make decisions on behalf of your child.
Routine is important to child development
Most family court judges from my experience believe that your child having a set routine at home is important to their development. However, there is also a presumption that it is in your child’s best interest to be able to have a strong relationship with you. This means that concerns about your work schedule come in second to your ability to have consistent visitation with your child. Do not assume that your work schedule will be at the top of a family court judge’s concern list. These specific circumstances that you find yourself in will influence this determination a great deal.
If you have a work schedule that is not conducive to a standard possession order, your best bet is to be able to work out a visitation schedule directly with your Co-parent. Even if you and your Co-parent do not see eye to eye on many issues the reality is that the two of you understand your family better than a family court judge. Leaving this issue up to a family court judge means that you are punting the decision-making on this subject to a person that will only know you because of a one- or two-day family court trial. This is a huge risk.
Many family court judges will simply defer to what presents your child with the most consistent and routine living environments possible. As a result, your typical work schedule can greatly be will it 5 judges. We may find ourselves in a position where the family court judge gives you less time than your parent with your children since creating a manageable visitation schedule simply isn’t something he or she can do.
If you desire to create a flexible and accommodating visitation schedule for yourself and your child and you need to be able to express that to your Co-parent. Understand that he or she is doing what they believe is best for themselves and ultimately best for your child. No work schedule completely negates appearance right 2 spend meaningful time with their children. Challenge in a divorce or child custody case will be to act intentionally and work continuously with your Co-parent to preserve your rights regarding building a relationship with your children after the child custody or divorce case is over.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. For more information on divorce and child custody cases related to first responders please check out our blog.