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Why people include the right of first refusal in their parenting plans

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2023 | Child Custody

There are many kinds of clauses people can include in legal agreements that give them certain rights. Those putting together estate plans or leases sometimes include the right of first refusal in reference to an individual’s potential interest in real property, for example. Such clauses give a renter or a specific family member an opportunity to buy a property before the owner or their estate sells it to anyone else.

People can include a similar but slightly different clause in their parenting plans, although it won’t have anything to do with their home or other real property holdings. What purpose does the right of first refusal serve when it comes to shared custody?

It clarifies third-party childcare hierarchies

When a parent with shared custody has the right of first refusal, what they effectively have is the right to know if the other parent will leave the child with someone else for more than an hour or two and to clarify whether they’d like to take the child for that time rather than handing them to someone else.

Some people specifically include the right of first refusal in their parenting plans because they do not want the other parent to leave their child with family members or neighbors who may have a history of substance abuse or aggressive behavior. Others simply wish to have as much time as possible with their children, including whenever the other parent becomes unavailable during their parenting time.

When there is language extending the right of first refusal to parents who share custody, either parent must notify the other if they are in a situation where they would make use of childcare services past a set period of time. There is no requirement to accept the option of extra parenting time, but the parent with a first refusal right should consistently have the opportunity to take the children when the other parent is not available.

There are other ways to address childcare matters

The right of first refusal is not a panacea that will absolutely protect against inappropriate childcare decisions in a shared custody arrangement. Parents might also need to include terms setting standards for childcare providers or even specifically prohibiting certain individuals from caring for their children. Including thoughtful terms in a parenting plan can reduce the friction between the parents and help keep things as safe and stable as possible for the children in a family.