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Ask yourself: Is including a right of first refusal in your parenting plan the right thing to do?

In yesterday’s blog post we introduced the topic of the right of first refusal as it pertains to parenting plans in family law cases. Basically, the right of first refusal involves the need for either or your ex-spouse to contact the other if you have to be away from your child for any extended period of time during a court ordered period of possession. Basically, instead of leaving your child with a babysitter or relative, your ex-spouse would need to call you first if he or she had to run to work to fill in for a co-worker’s shift.

This creates a situation where you will need to know the pros and cons of having this right included in your child custody orders. As I will often tell you all in this situation, it is well worth going back to yesterday’s blog post in order to read what was written prior to reading today’s blog post. Once you have done so, I encourage you to take a look at what we have to say in regard to questions that you should ask yourself before agreeing to a right of first refusal.

Do you and your ex-spouse agree on how situations are to be communicated to one another?

To be unclear is to be unkind, as a wise man once told me. You and your spouse not only need to be in agreement on the general principles surrounding the right of first refusal, but you need to be absolutely sure that the specifics of the plan are to be included in your orders. How is the right to be offered to the other parent? What are the methods by which the other parent can accept? How much time can one parent provide to the other in order to satisfy the requirement for providing the right of first refusal?

Basically- is the right functional enough so as to provide you and your ex-spouse with the benefits that the right affords you both, while being flexible enough so not to paint each of you into a corner that interferes with your abilities to parent to your child and engage in last minute changes in your plans. Remember that the right of first refusal is far from a necessity for your case. It is a nice add on for certain parents in certain situations.

Consider the source as far as which parent is requesting that the right be included

If your ex-spouse is the one who is requesting that a right of first refusal be included in a parenting plan then you need to consider if he or she has proven themselves to be responsible in the past as far as who has done the caretaking for your child when he or she was in that parent’s possession. If you are going through a divorce and have no track record to base any opinion on then you may not want to agree to this right being included. You probably have a good understanding if your child’s other parent will go ahead and turn over your child to their own relative once the right of first refusal is taken up.

On the other hand, if your ex-spouse has shown for years that he or she has always taken all of the time with your child that was provided to him or her you probably have a fair amount of data to make a decision based off of. It’s more than likely that he or she will actually be present with your child during the time that you are unable to care for your child. As a result, you should feel more confident that your child will be in good hands and that including a right of first refusal is in your child’s best interests.

Does your child’s other parent display bad behavior surrounding you and your personal life?

Once you and your child’s other parent are no longer together in a functioning relationship, he or she likely does not need to know all of the ins and outs of your life. With that said, it is worthwhile for you to examine whether or not you trust your child’s other parent. Has he or she ever tried to read your emails, look up information about you online or otherwise sought information that he or she should not have access to?

On a related subject, have you and the other parent had prior issues involving lack of trust, dating violence, infidelity or anything related to those subjects? If so you may re-opening your life to unnecessary intrusion by your ex-spouse. Consider whether or not you will be able to wall off a certain segment of your personal life in order to open up another to him or her. It is much easier for an ex-spouse to learn your schedule, your habits and other details when you are forced by a court order to constantly keep him or her aware of your comings and goings through a right of first refusal.

What affect will the right of first refusal have on your ability to have your extended family spend time with your child?

In most situations, you have the right to allow your child to spend time with whomever you would like during your periods of possession. If that means that you want to take your child to your mother’s house (who your ex-spouse does not much care for) there is nothing that he or she can do about it. That same grandmother can also babysit your child if your ex-spouse has to work unexpectedly.

The same can be said for you and your extended family. Your ex-spouse no longer has much say so over who spends time with your child and when during your periods of possession- that is, unless you have included a right of first refusal in your parenting plan. Instead of being able to have your relatives come over to watch your child for an afternoon, under a right of first refusal you would need to notify your ex-spouse of any absence from your home and to allow him or her to take possession of your child.

To sum it all up, you are ceding some of your personal autonomy in regard to making decisions for your children in favor of giving your ex-spouse more of an opportunity to have time with your child. Now, if this is what you want to do there is nothing wrong with that. It is your life and that of your child that you are making decisions about.

On the other hand- carefully consider your circumstances and the personalities of you and your spouse before agreeing to include a right of first refusal in your parenting plan. It is not for every parent or for every child. Think about the questions that we have posed to you in yesterday’s and today’s blog posts. If you have doubts about any of these situations then you are well advised to not immediately jump into an agreement whereby a right of first refusal is included.

Questions on the right of first refusal or any other issue in family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

After reading through our blogs on this subject if you have any questions about the right of first refusal we would be honored if you were to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. Our attorneys are licensed and practice exclusively in the field of family law. Sitting down with one of our attorneys you can ask questions on whatever subjects you would like to learn about. We represent people in our community just like you and take a great deal of pride in doing so.

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