I work night shifts as an RN. My schedule is variable (i.e. no fixed pattern). This is frustrating my ex to the point she is threatening me into a "fixed schedule" with the kids regardless of my work schedule. Our divorce agreement states that I have them "two overnights a week" with one week being weeknights, the other weekends. If I'm working all night, then obviously I can't be at home with the kids!
She cannot "force" you to follow a plan that is different than your ordered parenting plan (I assume you have a parenting plan order in place because you said your "divorce agreement"). But she could file a motion to modify the parenting plan to ask for a set schedule. If she unilaterally changes the schedule, you could file a motion yourself to enforce the parenting plan order. You should speak to an attorney privately about your specific case.
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My colleague is correct. She cannot unilaterally change the parenting plan. If so, she is in violation of the parenting plan. However, she may request to modify it, at which time, she would need to establish that the modification is in the children's best interests.
Neither parent in a custody case has the right or power to unilaterally "force" the other into any particular arrangement. If a parent wants to change their parenting plan, the only way to make that change enforceable is to file a motion with the court, asking that a judge order the plan they want. The other parent then has the right to file a response and ask for something else. If the parents can't agree, then the court will hold a hearing and a judge will make a decision. Judges are usually fairly sensible and will work around a parent's work schedule, so long as that schedule isn't totally impossible or arbitrary (for example, if you didn't know your schedule until the very day you work each time, you couldn't ask that your co-parent's time with their children be held hostage to your demands for change each day. Children, and parents, deserve more consistency than that.).
Judges all urgently want parents to be reasonable and work these things out for themselves. So the first step has got to be to explain your situation to your co-parent and to try to arrive at a schedule that works for you both. You both may have to compromise somewhat on the details. If you're unwilling or unable to do that, then consult with an attorney in private about the modification process.
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Children need some regularity in their schedule. It is beneficial mentally, emotionally, and socially to have this regularity. While your ex can't force you into something that is not currently specified in your parenting plan your ex could ask the court to modify the plan so that you have set nights foryour parenting time and ask the court how to deal with your variable schedule so it has the least impact on the children. Most likely the court would be influenced by the recommendation of the court family mediator if there were a parenting time study. So the best thing for you to do is not let it get to the point where the court is making the decisions.
First, I would talk to the scheduling department at your job and ask if there is a way to make your schedule more predictable. Then talk to your ex about scheduling family mediation with the court counselor and go and discuss the best way to compromise on the parenting time schedule. The court mediator might even encourage you ex to be more flexible and work with you on the scheduling. But be ready to at least offer to compromise on your end as well. Ultimately what is best for the children, not you or your ex, should be the most important consideration.
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