Right of First Refusal in Custody Cases

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Friday, January 10, 2014.

Sometimes a parent has to miss out on time with the children. It’s not that mom or dad is neglectful, just that life sometimes intervenes: the boss wants mom to work late, or dad has an exam. Are you required to ask your Ex-spouse to care for the kids first, or can you get a babysitter or family member to fill in? The Right of First Refusal answers that question.

It is never easy to divide timesharing in a child child custody dispute, especially when you can’t be there for your own child. Do you have to allow your Ex first dibs?

The right of first refusal requires that one parent first offer the other parent the opportunity to look after the children before hiring a babysitter or asking another person to care for the children.

The right of first refusal can come up when you’ve planned to be out of town, or in last-minute situations. The other parent may be able to take the kids for that weekend or night, and you can make up the difference later.

If the other parent can’t pick up the slack, then a babysitter, family member or even a friend can fill in. The right of first refusal can apply to time periods of an hour, to days depending on your agreement.

The right of first refusal maximizes a parent’s time with their kids. I’ve also found that when there is a right of first refusal, the parents are more likely to communicate with each other, and hopefully eliminate some of the anger between parents.

Illinois is about to enact a law requiring the right of first refusal. Effective January 14, 2014, the new Illinois statute 602.3 will require that:

If it is in the best interest of the child, both parties shall have the right of first refusal to care for the minor children if the absence of either party is necessary for a period of 4 hours or longer. That parent shall first offer the other parent an opportunity for additional time with the children before making other arrangements for the temporary care of the children.

The new statute contains provisions concerning distance, transportation, and time constraints. It also requires a parent to notify the other parent of the duration of the parenting time or temporary care of the children by other persons. And contains requirements regarding the offering and acceptance of additional parenting time.

Florida does not have a statute requiring the right of first refusal. Reading through the Illinois statute, I wonder whether this will become an issue for Florida’s legislature will pick up.

Timesharing is based primarily on the “best interests” of a child. Should the right of first refusal be regarded as in the best interest of absent a showing of impracticability or harm to a child?

The statute can be read here.