First Right of Refusal in Child Custody Cases

right of first refusalParents are the most influential figures in the lives of their children.  The time that kids spend with each parent helps to shape their personalities and usually gives kids their first impression of what it means to be part of a family. For these reasons and countless others, it is important for children to spend time with both parents as often as possible.  While it sounds simple, divorced or separated parenting situations can make this more difficult in practice. Having a child custody agreement that includes a provision such as the right of first refusal can help to manage time that kids spend with each parent.

Defining right of first refusal

How to allocate parenting time in shared parenting situations is not always laid out in black-and-white, but the right of first refusal can help make this easier. Right of first refusal in custody situations commonly means that one parent must first offer the other parent the opportunity to look after their kids before contacting a babysitter or another family member to care for the children. 

Right of first refusal typically applies to both planned and last minute situations.  Therefore, if a parent makes plans for night out with friends two months, or even two days, prior to the actual event, they must offer the other parent the option to care for their children before making any other arrangements.  If the other parent decides not to take the kids during this time, then a third party caretaker such as a friend, babysitter or other family member may be asked to care for the children instead.   Right of first refusal may also apply to situations such as doctor’s appointments, vacations, after school daycare, and many other instances.

Avoiding conflict with right of first refusal

Right of first refusal helps to encourage kids spending more time with each parent, but there may be times when conflict between parents occurs when parenting time needs to be rearranged.  Whenever possible, it is best for co-parents to keep each other informed about any set or tentative plans that call for adjustments to be made to the family’s normal parenting schedule.  Providing as much notice as possible can help reduce friction.  When communication between parents is more fluid, stress is reduced for every family member.

Requesting changes in a parenting schedule on a custody calendar

Right of first refusal is often used in many high-conflict custody situations, and the OurFamilyWizard Calendar helps to make the process of requesting changes in a parenting schedule easier.  One feature available on the OurFamilyWizard Calendar is the trade/swap tool.  This is a way to request and get mutual agreement to adjustments in the normal parenting schedule on your Calendar.  To learn more about the trade/swap tool and the OurFamilyWizard Calendar, please visit our Calendar Features page.