Getting a divorce involves a lot of hard decisions:

how to handle finances, whether spousal maintenance is appropriate, who pays the bills while the divorce is pending, who keeps the marital residence, etc. But questions about child custody are often the most hotly contested in any divorce. In the optimal circumstance, parents cooperate to make a parenting plan that works for the child(ren) and themselves.

A great thing about a DIYvorce is that it encourages parents to work together on custody and parenting issues.

When parents work together on custody and parenting issues, they can include provisions that the court might be reluctant to include on its own. One of those provisions is called the “right of first refusal.” This provision stipulates that if the parent who is currently exercising parenting time is unable to care for the child for a certain amount of time due to work or social obligations, then the other parent will has the first opportunity to watch the child, before a babysitter or other relative. There are pros and cons to including such a provision in your parenting plan.

The Pros and Cons

The biggest pro is that it maximizes the time that both parents get to spend with the child, instead of placing the child with daycare or another care provider. Allowing the children as much time as possible with both parents helps strengthen the bond and provides additional stability to the children. Another pro is that it helps the parties save money. For example, if the mother is exercising parenting time, but she has to attend a class every Tuesday afternoon, the father could be the one providing child care during that time, saving on childcare costs.

One of the primary cons of including the right of first refusal is the increased possibility of conflict. Any time you exchange the child with your former spouse provides an opportunity for misunderstandings and disagreements. The best way to avoid this problem in right of first refusal agreements is to include very specific rules in the parenting order about when the provision will be triggered. For example, including a phrase that the right of first refusal is only applicable where the parent exercising time will be unable to watch the child for twelve or more hours.

If you want some ideas and advice on creating a parenting time plan that works for your kid(s) and both parents, contact your DIYvorce support staff.


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