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What is a “right of first refusal” parenting plan provision?

On Behalf of | Oct 22, 2023 | Child Custody

As a divorcing parent, even if you and your soon-to-be ex agree to split parenting time 50-50 or close to it, you would probably like to have more time with your child. You’d probably also like to minimize the time your child needs to be in the hands of a babysitter, daycare facility or other caregiver.

You can do that by adding a provision to your parenting plan that gives you (as well as your co-parent) what’s called “right of first refusal.” Just how does that work?

A right of first refusal (sometimes known as “first right of refusal” or “right of first option for child care”) provision simply states that if one parent will be unable to care for a child at any point during their scheduled parenting time, they are required to give their co-parent the option to do so before getting a third-party caregiver. This is typically used only when co-parents live near each other and can easily pick up or drop off their child.

What should you include in the provision?

You may want to add some specificity to this. For example:

  • How soon does one parent have to notify the other when they learn that they need child care?
  • What period of time will this provision be used for (when you need child care for more than an hour, a half-day, full day and so forth)
  • How long does the other parent have to say yes or no?
  • How will the communication be handled (text, phone call, email and/or parenting app, for example)
  • Does the parent time require a “swap?” (For example, if your co-parent takes the child for a day during your scheduled time, are you entitled to a day during theirs?)

Co-parents who have an amicable relationship might not think they need all of these details. You may feel like you can just “wing it.” You certainly have the right to handle these things however you choose as long as the designated amount of parenting time for each of you doesn’t significantly change without a court order. However, it’s a good idea to have these details codified in case there’s a disagreement. Having a solid parenting plan to refer to can make co-parenting go more smoothly and  — most importantly – your child.