You got married just as you started your training to become a firefighter. Your wife was very supportive of it at the time. You went on to get a full-time job in Fullerton, where you love what you do. You and your wife had kids, bought a house and moved forward with your lives the way you'd always expected.
The end of the marriage
Then your wife filed for divorce. You did not see it coming, perhaps because you were so busy with work. Your main focus is on getting as much time as you can with the kids. As their father, don't you have an equal right to be with them?
You do, but it can be hard with a firefighter's schedule. Many parents swap their children back and forth on a weekly basis. The parent with custody that week can still work when they're at school and then he or she takes care of them when they're home. It's a pretty simple schedule, but it may not work at all for you. After all, here are some highlights from a firefighter's schedule:
- On average, a firefighter with a full-time position is going to put in about 56 hours every week. This is significantly more than the traditional 40-hour work week that most employees enjoy, working eight hours per day.
- Firefighters also do not have 8-hour shifts. Instead, they work 24-hour shifts. Fires do not happen on any schedule and they need to be ready at all times. In rare cases, firefighters may get 12-hour shifts, but the 24-hour shifts are more common.
- Generally, a firefighter has to put in 10 of these long shifts every single month. Roughly, this means that the firefighter gets 20 days off.
- You may not have to do so, depending on your income needs, but a lot of firefighters work second jobs during their time off. This gives them additional income, but it does mean working even more hours in the week.
In short, you're busy. You do have a long time off, but you work odd hours, you work all through the night and you average more weekly hours than traditional workers. Firefighting is a serious occupation that consumes a large part of your life, and there's no way around that.
If you do get custody of the children, how do they fit into this schedule? Do you have enough time to spend with them? How can you watch them if you have to stay on the job all night? When can you do the exchange with your ex? How does your schedule line up with their school schedules? These are all critical questions to ask.
Setting it up
This does not mean you lose your right to see your kids because of your job. You just need to know exactly what steps to take to create a custody plan that works for everyone.