This situation is extremely common for firemen, police, and hospital workers. Typically, some kind of letter is required from your employer outlining the conditions of your employment including the scheduling arrangement. If your schedule is truly in constant flux, most parenting agreements include a notice provision to accommodate parenting time for the parent with the fluctuating schedule.
The notice provision requires the parent with fluctuating schedule to provide notice to the other parent of their schedule upon receipt. Then that parent will awarded a certain time frame with the children based on the parent with the fluctuating schedule’s time off from work.
This requires the parties to really work together and sustain open communication. It is also encouraged that a written record be preserved of these notices. Luckily, in this age of email, that is an easy requirement to meet.
The question often becomes what notice is reasonable? If your schedule changes on a basis which is not concrete like a hospital releasing its schedule of doctor or nurse’s rounds on a monthly basis, then you must propose a certain number of days’ notice where you are to inform the other parent of your coming schedule. For example, you’ll provide notice of your parenting time 2 weeks in advance of said parenting time.
The more erratic this notice is, the less likely the other parent is to accept this notice. Even if the other parent accepts your notice proposal, the Court may reject your notice proposal.
Generally, agreed orders are not judicial determinations of the parties’ rights but rather agreements between the parties and are subject to the rules of contract interpretation. In re Marriage of Kolessar, 2012 IL App (1st). But, in marriage dissolution proceedings, while “property disposition agreements between spouses are binding upon the court, unless unconscionable *** the court is not bound by agreements providing for the support, custody, and visitation of the children.” Blisset v. Blisset, 123 Ill. 2d 161, 167 (1988).
So, the court will only approve a notice-requirement parenting time schedule if the court finds it to be in the best interests of the children.
If your notice-requirement parenting schedule is adopted by the court, you must be apprised of the fact that you will have to fit your parenting time to the children’s pre-scheduled activities.
I can’t emphasize how extremely difficult it is on everyone involved, both the parents and the children to productively abide by a notice-requirement parenting schedule. It requires real cooperation and communication between the parents. As the children age, the children will often see parenting time with the non-custodial parent as not being mandatory because the ephemeral nature of the parenting schedule.
Most employers have developed separate career tracks for their employees who have a floating schedule but need to “firm it up” so they can see their children on a regular basis. Please inquire with your employer if there is a career track with a defined schedule. Failing that, please do your best to seek employment with another employer who can give you a regular schedule. This job change will almost always be considered a “good faith” change and any reductions in child support or maintenance based on such a change will therefore be accepted by the court.
Finally, many professions have a busy season where a parent must reduce or suspend their parenting time. A busy season can be anticipated well in advance and is usually very manageable. The other parent should be encouraged to exercise their extended parenting time, i.e. vacations, during this period.