If you share physical custody of your child, you probably treasure the time you get to spend together. Depending on your visitation or custody agreement, it can be difficult to forge and foster a parent-child relationship with limited parenting time, especially if you are the non-custodial parent. You may have an option, however, to increase your access to your child in many situations without altering your current schedule or arrangement. It is known as the right of first refusal, and Illinois courts have the authority to include such right in any custody arrangement as appropriate.
What is First Refusal?
Many co-parenting and visitation schedules are very “black-and-white” designating specific days for each parent to spend with the child. Life, however, is not always so predictable, and occasionally, situations may arise in which you or the other parent require alternative childcare during your scheduled time. In some cases, such as a business trip or personal vacation, a parent may need to make childcare arrangements for an extended period of time. Implementing the right of first refusal would require a parent in that situation to offer the other parent the chance to care for the child before making looking elsewhere.
For example, if you have agreed to include the right of first refusal in your custody order and your child’s other parent wanted to go out of town for a few days, he or she must offer you the opportunity to care for your child during that time. The existing parenting schedule would be temporarily disregarded while you provided care, and you would be offered “extra” time with your child. The right of first refusal does not obligate you to accept the opportunity; it only mandates the offer by the parent needing childcare.
While Illinois law provides that the right of first refusal is an option available to parents and the court, it is not specific in its terms. In particular, it does not clarify exactly what situations would invoke the right or the logistics of implementing it. Instead, it simply states that the right of first refusal would apply to situations in which childcare is needed “for a significant period of time.” The law, therefore, requires parents to clearly establish what that means to them, as well as timeframes for notifying and accepting opportunities, how communication will be handled, and transportation arrangements.
If you would like to learn more about incorporating the right of first refusal into your custody or visitation agreement, contact an experienced Wheaton family law attorney. At Keller Legal Services, P.C., we are committed to helping clients work through any type of family law concern. Call 630-868-3093 to schedule your confidential consultation today.