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Exercising the Right to First Refusal In Your Parenting Plan

As a divorced parent, you have a right to see your child as outlined in the signed parenting plan. You and your ex-spouse undoubtedly have busy schedules and there may be times when you can’t follow the agreed upon visitation schedule exactly. As long as you and your spouse are ok with the occasional mix up, there’s nothing wrong with taking a rain check. Of course, you probably want the opportunity to get some of that time back whenever possible.That’s why many parenting plans in the state of Florida also include the “right to first refusal.”

What Is the Right to First Refusal?

The right to first refusal is essentially a parent’s right to be the first point of contact in the event that their ex-spouse needs childcare during their custodial period. If your child is staying with their other parent and they make plans to go out in the evening or need to go on a work trip, your ex-spouse is required to defer to you to see if you are available. At this point, you have the option of taking your child for the agreed upon extra time. If you are unable or refuse, then the other parent is responsible for finding other accommodations for childcare.

The specific parameters of the right to first refusal varies from family to family. It’s very important that parenting plans outline boundaries that work for both parents. For example, if you live relatively far from your ex-spouse, it’s probably inconvenient to be expected to drop everything to care for your child just for a couple of hours. You might need to include specific minimums for the amount of time you’re willing to allocate for childcare, or minimum advance notice. You or your ex-spouse may need to attend to business for a prolonged period of time, or even go on an adults-only vacation. It’s unreasonable to expect either parent to be able to accommodate this type of childcare without notice. The right to first refusal is not only a convenient tool for parents to have free and accessible childcare, but also a means for parents to spend precious extra time with their children.

Additional Considerations

Including a right to first refusal clause in your parenting plan also has additional benefits and quirks to consider. Your relationship with your ex-spouse could improve with a co-parenting plan that has proven to be mutually beneficial. On the other hand, a flaky or inconsistent ex-spouse can also find it as an excuse to drop the kids off on a whim without notice. Some parenting plans include grandparents or other family members to reduce some of the pressure of unexpected childcare needs.

What If My Ex-Spouse Doesn’t Respect My Right to First Refusal?

There are consequences if your ex-spouse does not follow through with the agreed-upon right to first refusal. If it’s a consistent issue that you can’t seem to get past, litigation could lead to a court ordered enforcement of the policy. One issue with this is that the burden of proof would be on you. Simply assuming that your ex-spouse isn’t giving you the right to first refusal because you haven’t been asked to babysit in a long time is not enough evidence. Working with a firm that specializes in family law will help you determine whether your ex-spouse is in breach of contract.

Co-parenting can be a stressful situation, but with the right legal counsel, you and your ex-spouse can create a parenting plan that is right for both families. For help with all your family law needs, contact Petkovich Law Firm today.


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