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Right of first refusal in your parenting orders

Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of divorcing as a parent is that in addition to dividing your property, you must divide your time with your children. As much as the Illinois courts try to seek a fair division of time between two parents, it is not always possible, especially when you have other obligations.

If the court has allocated parental rights to your ex, you may be concerned that you are not getting enough parenting time with your children. One way to increase the amount of time you spend with them is to request the inclusion of the right of first refusal in your parenting orders.

The benefits of first refusal

It may be heartbreaking to learn that you had an evening free, but your ex-spouse called a babysitter instead of asking you to keep the kids. Those hours spent with a hired sitter or a grandparent may have been time for you to be with the kids, time to bond and share experiences beyond what your limited parenting time allows. If you had the right of first refusal in your parenting orders, your ex would have to contact you to see if you are available before calling a babysitter.

Some of the important details related to first refusal rights include the following:

  • Your parenting orders can state that your ex must give you the right of first refusal if he or she needs a caregiver for longer than a certain period of time, such as three hours or whatever you negotiate.
  • If your ex-spouse fails to contact you first, he or she may be in contempt of court.
  • First refusal rights can include contacting you to take the children to appointments, such as doctor appointments, music lessons or athletic practice, when a scheduling conflict prevents your spouse from doing so.
  • You may also have parenting time with your kids instead of your spouse sending them to after school daycare, if your schedule permits.
  • You must reciprocate by allowing your former spouse the right of first refusal if you are unable to be with the children during your parenting time.

The right of first refusal can enhance your relationship with your children by providing those extra moments together you may not have had otherwise. Without this stipulation in your parenting order, others who have no parental rights may be with your children at times when you are available to care for them.

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