How custody can work with an unusual job schedule

When parents work odd hours, custody arrangements might not always be as simple as “every other week.” A bit of creativity goes a long way.

Not everyone in Texas works during traditional business hours. For example, police officers, firefighters, nurses, journalists, retail store workers and service members, among others, may have to work late into the night and into the morning. Their contributions are valuable, and these professionals should not be punished when it comes to custody or visitation talks because of their jobs.

Good news: It is possible to make co-parenting work well when one parent or even both have atypical work schedules. That said, there can be bumps in the road at first as everything gets figured out.

Firm boundaries with work

The different potential arrangements with custody or visitation schedules can look like this:

· Alternating weekends: The child lives with one parent and visits the other parent every other weekend.

· First, third and fifth weekends: The child visits the other parent every first, third and fifth weekend.

· Second, third and fifth weekends: The child visits the other parent every second, third and fifth weekend.

And so on. There are unlimited numbers of possibilities to draw up. For example, the child could visit the parent every Tuesday night as well, but the point is this: The first step in making a custody arrangement succeed is for parents to have firm boundaries with work on weekends or weekdays they have the children. Their employer can feel free to throw the parents' schedule into flux whenever if both employer and employee agree-but not when the children are under the parent's care.

Liberal vacations

Some jobs that use nontraditional work schedules may give liberal time off. Even if they do not, an employee may be able to cobble together allowed time off into an extended period to spend with the children. Hopefully, the other parent is willing to let the children go be with their other parent for two or three weeks at a time or even longer.

Stepping in as needed

It could be that both parents opt for what looks like traditional joint custody such as each parent having the child every other week. Because the parents have a good co-parenting relationship, the parent with the traditional work schedule is fine keeping the child or picking up the child early/later if work issues arise for the other parent.

Extended family can help here too. Perhaps the parent with the nontraditional schedule has a spouse or parents who are happy to step in.

Involvement in school and other activities

A parent with an atypical work schedule should go to the children's school meetings, sports games and the like. This gives the parent involvement in the children's lives throughout the year.

Parents in Texas are right to be concerned about custody or visitation arrangements if they work different hours than the norm. A lawyer can help them draw up a realistic parenting plan that is as fair as possible to everyone involved.