When the court makes a decision about child contact, the best interests of the child(ren) take precedence. However, it is vital to highlight that there is no standardised strategy to contact arrangements. Each child and family is unique, and when developing a contact agreement, parents can be creative and flexible in terms of how contact is created and maintained. The essential topics to consider when dealing with shift work as a separated parent are communication, consistency, and flexibility. It is up to each family to think about strategies to support and preserve contact that works for them while keeping the child's interests and well-being in mind.
Parents who work shifts frequently have little choice in how their work schedule is arranged. However, they may be assigned to a rota that is planned weeks or even months in ahead. While it may be impractical to make contact on the same days each week, an agreed-upon calendar for contact can be established. Communicating rotas and shift patterns to your child's other parent as soon as feasible will provide each parent with timeframes to work with and plan around. With each parent (and child) knowing who will be contacting whom on which day, arrangements for holidays and activities can be made well in advance. As a result, the youngster gains consistency and stability. If one parent is unable to reach the child on the same days each week all year, arrangements can be made for the youngster to contact the shift worker parent on particular days while they are onshore.
For people who are unsure of their shift pattern from week to week, the emphasis should be on communication and adaptability. Making sure you speak with the other parent as quickly and productively as can, and treating them (and their time) with respect, will make organising contact much easier. If communication problems exist between parents, it may be useful to try attending mediation. Mediation can help separated parents communicate better.
When creating a contact order, the court will consider a number of issues, including the child's age and stage, the child's connection with their parents, the child's opinions, and family structure, among others. The court may take a parent's work schedule into account. However, this is merely one component of a larger assessment of what is best for the child. The courts are unlikely to impose a tight contact schedule if it cannot be followed due to a parent's work schedule, and the court will do its best to draught an order that they believe will be successful in practise. It is important to remember that going to court should only be used as the last choice after all other options, such as discussion and mediation, have been exhausted.
Separated parents should be encouraged to develop contact arrangements that benefit the entire family and to develop a plan that is appropriate for their situation. The communication and adaptability of the parties will determine the success of any contact arrangements. If parents can communicate effectively by agreeing on consistent arrangements for contact, everyone (especially the child) wins.