Divorcing parents have many decisions to make when it comes to determining child custody and the terms of their parenting plan. One decision they will confront is whether to include a right of first refusal in their parenting plan.
Eventually, all parents need to leave their children in the care of a capable babysitter. Whether a parent needs to travel out of town for work, requires a hospital stay, or wants to enjoy a night out there are many valid reasons for a parent to utilize a babysitter. Grandparents often revel the opportunity to have uninterrupted time with the grandkids and rush in to help out. As well-intentioned and harmless as this may seem, it can be enormously frustrating for the other parent to miss a parenting time opportunity to a third party (even grandma), especially if they already have limited parenting time. In situations like these, a right of first refusal can be beneficial because it maximizes the amount of time parent and child can spend together.
A right of first refusal is an option for more parenting time. It requires each parent to contact the other and offer parenting time with their children when either parent is unable to be physically present for his or her scheduled parenting time. Effectively, it means grandma doesn’t always get first dibs. If for example a mother needs to travel out of state during her regular parenting time a right of first refusal would require her to offer the parenting time to the father before asking another caretaker.
A right of first refusal is not a guarantee. You and your spouse will need to agree to include one in your parenting plan. If you can’t agree, though unlikely, a judge might order a right of first refusal. Even if you mutually agree that a right of first refusal is appropriate and beneficial to be effective you will also have to agree on what events trigger the duty to offer parenting time. Below are some of the factors to consider when negotiating a right of first refusal in your parenting plan:
When including a right of first refusal the trickiest part is deciding how broad or narrow the right will be. It could be drafted to include all absences from the children regardless of duration or it could state that there is no obligation to offer additional parenting time. Most couples fall somewhere in the middle. Depending on the age of the children and the availability of the parents, a duration of two hours to twenty-four hours might be appropriate. Couples in high conflict divorces generally favor no right of first refusal or a broad one requiring at least an overnight absence in an effort to minimize further contact between them. In contrast, couples that are more amicable tend to favor more generous duration triggers such as a few hours. The distance between each parents’ residence is also a factor.
If you have children and are contemplating a separation or divorce our skilled team of family law legal professionals in Oak Brook can help you get a favorable parenting plan that meets the needs of you and your children. If you have questions about child custody laws in Illinois or the right of first refusal, contact us today to schedule a consultation. We are here to help.
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