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What's a 'right of first refusal' in child custody?

Your ex-spouse has been placed on mandatory overtime at work -- so they're working much longer hours than normal. As a consequence, they're simply not available during their normally scheduled visitation.

So what happens to the kids? A "right of first refusal" clause can make the answers easier to figure out.

What's a right of first refusal clause?

Basically, it's a clause contained in some parenting plans that requires each parent to give the other parent the opportunity to step in and assume caregiving (and custody) of the children when they're not able to take advantage of their normal parenting time -- before they extend the opportunity to anyone else, such as a babysitter, grandparent or family friend.

Clauses like this can (and usually will) address satellite issues like:

  • Transportation concerns, like which parent should deliver or pick up the child for their stay
  • Notifications to the parent with the right of first refusal, including how long the other parent must wait on a response before making other arrangements
  • The length of the care and the kind of care the child shall receive
  • Any other conditions the court thinks is appropriate or in the child's best interests.

Why is this clause important?

Without it, you could be missing out on important opportunities with your own children. Your ex may instead turn to your child's grandparents or someone else -- even though you clearly want more time with your child. Without the right of first refusal, however, you ex can essentially stow your child with any safe caretaker, regardless of your wishes.

These are the kinds of situations that it's smart to consider early -- while still negotiating your custody agreement. Find out more about your legal options today.

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