What is the Right of First Refusal?

Science has proven that children develop best when they spend time with both parents. This helps them establish what a family is and how to interact with others. However, not every child has both parents under the same roof. Spending equal time with both parents is more challenging for children of separated or divorced parents.

Typically, developing a child custody agreement for these situations is stressful for everyone involved, but as long as both parents put their personal feelings aside and work toward the best interests of the child or children involved, a healthy and constructive agreement can be reached that works for all parties involved. It’s important for parents in these situations to understand the Right of First Refusal and the role it plays in custody disputes.

What is the Right of First Refusal?

A custody arrangement will usually stipulate very clearly the time each parent has to spend with their children, but there is always the possibility of unforeseen circumstances. Having a Right of First Refusal clause included in the custody agreement can be a great way to prevent any ugly confrontations or disputes over child care. Essentially, the Right of First Refusal means that if one parent has custody over a child and the need for a babysitter or supervision arises, the parent must ask the other parent if he or she would like to supervise the child before asking anyone else to supervise.

For example, imagine the parent who currently has custody of a child is on his or her way to pick the child up from school when the car breaks down. The parent must contact the other parent and offer them the chance to pick up the child before making any other arrangements. When it comes to planned trips, the parent taking the trip must consult with the other parent and offer them the chance to supervise the child before anyone else.

Right to First Refusal clauses usually apply to last minute scenarios and planned events. This law can also apply to things like school events, doctors’ appointments, vacations, and other events. This means that if a parent will not be able to supervise their children on any date, whether previously known or not, the other parent must be offered the opportunity to watch their children before any other supervision is arranged. The law exists to encourage children to spend as much time as possible with both parents.

Complications with the Right of First Refusal

Right of First Refusal clauses are typically encouraged in contentious divorces or separations. This adds an extra layer of protection against distressful disputes between parents over custody and clearly establishes that the parents have the first right to supervise their children if the other parent is unable to do so during his or her custody time. However, while the Right of First Refusal is meant to make things simpler, it can also complicate things. Some divorced couples will adhere strictly to the agreed upon custody arrangement down to the minute. If one parent unexpectedly gets an extra day with a child, the other parent who needed to ask for supervision may demand a day in return to make up the difference. Understandably, this can get difficult at times, but it’s important for the parents to put their feelings aside and work together for the benefit of their children.

Additionally, if a Right of First Refusal clause is to be added to the custody agreement, the parents’ physical locations must be taken in account. Obviously, if one parent lives in another state after the divorce, he or she won’t be able to make spur-of-the-moment trips to pick a child up from school. The best option for parents in these situations is to consult with a very experienced divorce and custody attorney to draw up an agreement that works for everyone involved.