Contemporary trends of warfare have witnessed a so-called ‘civilian footprint’ in support of military operations while battlefields have increasingly shifted towards urban areas. International humanitarian law established a framework through which civilians are protected from direct attack ‘unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities’. Three key areas have traditionally been associated with the analysis of direct participation in hostilities (‘dph’): civilian legal status, what behaviour amounts to dph, and what modalities govern this loss of protection. This article will focus on the latter and attempt to create a feasible and practical framework capable of harnessing the temporal scope of dph and limit the so-called ‘revolving door phenomenon’. The framework developed in this article will account for criteria that could and should aid decision-making on the battlefield, most notably causal associations between individuals and dph acts and the physical or non-physical nature of dph acts’ deployments.