Should you seek 'right of first refusal?'

"Right of first refusal" may sound like a clause that you'd put in a business contract. However, some parents include this provision in their child custody agreement. It requires that one parent contact the other if he or she isn't able to take care of a child before calling another family member, friend or babysitter to do so.

A right of first refusal provision can be particularly beneficial in high-conflict divorces where parents without primary physical custody are concerned that they won't be the go-to caregiver for the kids if their co-parent isn't able to take care of them. It helps both parents remain involved in their children's lives.

Of course, it's best to include as many foreseeable circumstances in your parenting plan as possible, detailing which parent will care for the kids on days off from school, after school and during vacation periods. However, many parents, at some point, have last-minute meetings or deadlines that keep them from picking up the kids at school, an invitation for a kid-free evening out with friends or unexpected business trips.

Communication between co-parents is still to everyone's benefit -- particularly the kids -- when you have a right of first refusal provision. If you believe there may be a few evenings where you'll have to work late next week or you think you may have to go spend a few days with an ailing family member, it's best to give your co-parent a head's up rather than wait until the last minute and hope that he or she won't be available so that someone you like better (and that may be just about anyone) can look after the kids.

If you don't communicate well in person or over the phone, there are plenty of shared parenting apps that help you keep each other informed without actually having to deal with one another.

If you're interested in including a right of first refusal clause in your custody agreement or your spouse wants to, it's essential to talk to your New York family law attorney about what that means in your particular situation. If you already have this provision and you believe that your co-parent is trying to get around it, your attorney can provide guidance on possibly amending the parenting plan or taking other steps to help ensure that you can remain an important part of your children's lives.

Source: Our Family Wizard, "Right of First Refusal," accessed Sep. 14, 2017

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