Divorcing police officers and firefighters, like other clients, face a multitude of issues. For most parties, the paramount concern is custody and parenting time when there are children born of the marriage.
For most parents who work “9 to 5” jobs, there will be a traditional custody and parenting time arrangement. This agreement is either agreed upon by the parties or set down by the Court via Order. However, police officers and firefighters face the enhanced task of working out a parenting time schedule that fits their unique hours and shifts. This is in addition to addressing the “typical” issues found in a divorce.
As background, there are two types of custody designations – legal custody and residential custody. Legal custody is defined as decision making, relative to the child’s health, religion, education, safety and welfare. It may be joint (where the parties have equal say) or sole (where one parent decides) legal custody. Residential custody refers to which residence the child or children spends the majority of their overnights. There are two designations here; one parent is the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) and the other is the Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR.)
In addition to all of those considerations, parties must agree upon a parenting time schedule. Typically, parties will alternate weekends, with a party enjoying parenting time from Friday after school until Sunday evening. This may not work for police officers, however, who work rotating shifts, often three or four days on and then four days off. They may alternate working days for a month, and then move to the night shift for the next month. Therefore, a police officer and his or her spouse may need to be creative and flexible in drafting a parenting time arrangement. Similarly, firefighters typically work twenty-four hours on and forty-eight hours off, and then another twenty-four hours on. Again, this shift structure may impede the ability to enter into a “typical” parenting time schedule and this should be addressed during the divorce proceedings.
Another consideration is the parenting time holiday schedule. Since many police and firefighters must work on holidays, this will again need to be addressed with insight and in consideration of the fluid nature of their work. Ultimately, flexibility and fairness are necessary to assure that divorcing police officers and firefighters enjoy their parenting time rights.
We understand the demands and constraints of law enforcement and how they impact parenting time. Please contact us if you have any questions about this blog post or other family law matters.
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