Separated parents: how to manage contact arrangements with children as a shift worker

Organizing and accepting contact with children can be tricky business, whatever your job. However, for those who work irregular hours or on a shift pattern, it can be particularly difficult. Whether you work as a nurse, firefighter, in the police or as offshore workerthere are steps you can take to make sure contact deals go as smoothly as possible.

When the court makes a decision regarding contact with a child, the best interests of the child are the primary consideration. But it is important to note that there is no standardized approach when it comes to contact agreements. Every child and every family is different, and when working out the contact agreement, parents can be Creative and flexible with how contact is made and maintained. When it comes to working shifts as a separated parent, the main themes to consider are communication, consistency and flexibility. It is up to each family to think about ways to support and maintain the contact that suits them, while placing the interests and well-being of the child at the centre.

Communication is the key to contact with children

Parents who work shifts often have no say in how their work schedule is set up. But they can be assigned a rotation that is created weeks or even months in advance. Although it may not be possible to have contact on the same days every week, what can be set is an agreed schedule of when contact will occur. Communicating shifts and work schedules with your child’s other parent as soon as possible will give each parent time to work and plan. With each parent (and child) knowing who is in touch on which day, arrangements for holidays and events can be agreed well in advance. This, in turn, gives the child consistency and stability.

If a parent is unable to have contact on the same days each week throughout the year, arrangements can be negotiated for the child to have contact with the shift worker parent on certain days when ashore . For those who don’t know what their work schedule will look like from week to week, the focus should be on communication and flexibility. Making sure to communicate as quickly and constructively as possible with the other parent and treating them (and their time) with respect will make arranging the contact much smoother. If there are communication problems between the parents, it may be worth considering attending mediation. Mediation can help improve communication between separated parents and you can read more about mediation here.

When courts decide how to contact children

The court will consider a range of factors when making a contact order, including the age and stage of the child, the child’s relationship with their parents, the views of the child and the structure family, among others. The court may consider a parent’s work schedule. However, this will only be part of a broader assessment of what is in the best interests of the child. Courts are unlikely to impose a strict contact schedule, if it’s not something that can be adhered to due to a parent’s work pattern, and the court will do its best to make an order that, in his view, will succeed in practice. It should be borne in mind that taking a case to court should be a last resort when all other avenues, including negotiation and mediation, have been exhausted.

Separated parents should be encouraged to create contact arrangements that work for the whole family and to develop a plan that works for that family. The success of any contact agreement will be determined by the communication and flexibility of the parties. If parents can communicate effectively by agreeing on consistent arrangements for contact, everyone (especially the child) benefits.

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