Making decisions regarding the custody of your children following a divorce is never an easy process. While the primary focus is always on determining what is in the best interest of the child, one factor that is frequently overlooked is the work schedule of each parent. In this blog post, we will explore how your work schedule can affect child custody (as it relates to physical custody) and discuss what parenting plans often work for those with demanding schedules.
Child Custody & Work Schedules
It is important to note that you do not have to the determination of child custody to the court; parents can work to agree on their parenting time and a custody arrangement. As you know your work schedule and demands best, you can try to work with your co-parent to develop a plan that works best for you both and your child.
If parents cannot agree on custody, the court will typically encourage them to attend mediation and work to reach an agreement themselves. Parents can also collaborate with their respective attorneys and collaborate on working out physical and legal custody.
Parents who can still not reach an agreement after mediation, counseling, and other alternative dispute resolution methods will then have to present their arguments and proposed custody arrangement to the court. As we mentioned, the court’s main concern is the well-being of the child; the court’s priorities also involve helping both parents maintain a relationship with their child. To support their claim and plan, they can present evidence and have witnesses speak.
How Your Work Schedule Intersects with Factors for Determining Custody
If either parent has a demanding or irregular work schedule, the other party may try to use that against them. However, the court will not simply deny a parent custody because of an unusual or demanding work schedule.
The court understands that both parents will have work and other commitments that can make it difficult to always be available for their child. Instead, the court is looking for evidence that each parent is making an effort to prioritize the child’s well-being and is willing to make sacrifices when necessary.
When determining custody, the court considers a wide range of factors that can affect the best interest of the child, including (but not limited to):
- each party’s current parental duties,
- the availability of extended family,
- each parent’s willingness to foster a relationship between the child and their co-parent,
- the child’s physical safety,
- each parent’s ability to and the likelihood of attending to their child’s daily physical, mental, emotional, educational, and unique needs,
- each parent’s ability to adequately care for their child or obtain childcare, and
- each parent’s physical and mental health.
If you believe that your work schedule may affect how much parenting time you are afforded, there are also steps you can take to try and mitigate this. To protect your interest, you should consider:
- A more flexible work arrangement. If it is possible for you to seek more flexible work arrangements, such as a modified work schedule or working from home, you should look into those options. You can show the court and/or the other party that you can be available.
- Your support network. If one parent has a more predictable work schedule or has a job that allows them to work from home, they may argue that they are better equipped to provide care for the children. Another way to prove that you can handle having physical custody with your schedule is establishing that you have a strong support network (i.e. family, friends, reliable babysitters, etc.) who can assist with childcare during times when you are unable to be there.
- The time spent with the child(ren). One of the most critical factors in determining child custody is the amount of time each parent spends with the children. If one parent has an inflexible work schedule or frequently works overtime, they may not be able to spend as much time with their children as the other parent. This could be seen as a disadvantage for the parent with the more demanding work schedule. As we mentioned, the court will consider your current involvement in the child’s life and your parenting responsibilities.
- Parenting skills and abilities. Another factor that can be impacted by work schedules is the parent’s ability to provide adequate care for their children. For example, if a parent works a night shift and has to sleep during the day, it could be difficult for them to supervise their children at all times. If this parent is also the primary caregiver, they may struggle to balance the demands of work and parenting effectively. In such situations, judges could be reluctant to grant sole physical custody to that parent.
- Traveling for work or constant relocation. If a parent's job requires them to relocate frequently or work outside of the state or country, this could affect how the court awards custody. When it comes to child custody cases, proximity is also a factor as the court will consider “the proximity of the residences of the parties” (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 5328).
Parenting Time Schedules for Parents with Demanding Work Schedules
Co-parents should consider various aspects like work schedules, travel plans, and other commitments when creating a shared joint custody schedule. It's important for parents to be flexible and find an arrangement that works best for them and their children.
If only one party has a demanding schedule, the 70-30 shared custody schedule often works well for them. This plan involves one parent having physical custody for 11 days while the other has custody for three days, and this 11 days followed by three days cycle continues. During the 11 days that Parent X has custody, Parent Y usually also has an overnight or daytime visit with their child (schedule allowing).
Co-parents who both have demanding work schedules can benefit from a custody arrangement that is tailored to their needs. This could include a parenting plan that allows the parent with the non-traditional work schedule to have the child for three or four days, or an agreement that allows both parents to change parenting time based on their work schedule as often as necessary.
Parents with shift work schedules can benefit from a parenting plan that allows them to coordinate their schedules and ensure that all parties involved are getting enough quality time with the child. This could include alternating days or weeks, where one parent is on duty while the other is off-duty, or pre-scheduled shifts that are decided in advance. The court will also take into consideration job concerns when deciding on a custody arrangement.
Discuss Your Child Custody Case with Our Team
William Kirby Law, Family Law Attorneys is backed by over two decades of legal experience. We offer comprehensive and compassionate family law services in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and are equipped to help you determine what type of custody schedule is best for you and your family. Whether you, your co-parent, or you both have demanding work schedules, our attorney can help you understand your legal rights and option as well as parenting plans we believe align with your goals and interests.
To schedule an initial consultation, contact our firm online or via phone at (215) 515-9901.