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How a “right of first refusal” provision can help you spend more time with your child

One of the hardships of divorce, even with shared custody, is that parents aren’t able to spend as much time with their children as they did before. Another is that they often have less of a say in who’s caring for their children when the kids are in their co-parent’s physical custody.

By including a right of first refusal in your custody agreement, you can help solve both problems. Let’s look at what this kind of provision does.

What is the “right of first refusal?”

It basically addresses situations where either parent is unable to care for the child during their scheduled parenting time. That parent would need to give the other parent a chance to take the child before asking a family member, friend or babysitter to watch the child. 

This can apply to planned events, like a night out with friends, or unplanned situations, like a work obligation that’s going to keep you late at the office.

Depending on how long this additional parenting time lasts, you may want to make a trade. For example, if you have to work on a Saturday you were supposed to have your child, you may want to ask for an additional day some other time.

What details should you include in your right of first refusal provision?

Details like whether or not a parent gets “make-up time” later can be included in the provision. You can also include things like how soon a parent needs to notify the other after they learn that they won’t be able to care for their child. While you may know in some cases days or weeks in advance, there will always be instances where you have little or no notice that you’re going to need child care.

You can also detail how the communication around the right of first refusal occurs. Texts and emails may work, and they allow you to provide proof of communication if you need it. For co-parents who find even these communications to be challenging, some co-parenting apps allow you to reach out without direct contact. 

By understanding the right of first refusal and other provisions you can include in your custody agreement, you’ll be better able to protect your parenting rights and your relationship with your children.

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