When parents divorce, even if they divide parenting time 50-50 or nearly that, they typically still don’t see their child as much as they’d like to or are used to. If you’re headed toward divorce, you may be dreading that already.
One way to increase your time with your child and also minimize the time they have to spend with a third-party caregiver is to include a right of first refusal provision in your parenting plan or other agreement. This type of provision is typically reciprocal, but it doesn’t have to be.
What is included in these provisions?
These provisions generally state that if a parent won’t be able to care for their child during part of their parenting time, they need to notify their co-parent and offer them the opportunity to take the child before they contact anyone else. This can involve anything from finding out weeks in advance that you must attend an event on an evening you’re scheduled to have your child to learn at the last minute that you need to work late and won’t be able to make it to daycare to pick up your child and bring them home.
You can draft the provision in whatever way works for you. For example, if you and your co-parent live within close proximity, you may want the provision to apply to any situation – even if it means needing a caregiver for an hour. If you live some distance apart, you may only want it to apply when you have some notice that you’ll need a caregiver for the better part of a day. When the latter is the case, parents will sometimes “trade” or “swap” days.
Don’t neglect the details
Even if you both trust each other not to try to get around the provision, it helps to include some details, like:
- How soon after you learn of the need for a caregiver you have to notify your co-parent
- How you will notify them (for example, by phone call, text and/or email)
- How much time they have to respond after they hear from you
Every right of first refusal provision is unique to the family. With experienced legal guidance, you can work out one that allows both of you to maximize your parenting time.