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What is the Right of First Refusal in a Parenting Plan?


Let’s assume that you and your spouse are getting divorced, and you have already agreed on time sharing and even child support when it comes to your children. That’s great news; the less fighting there is, the better it is for your children. But many times when parties agree on the big picture, they often get bogged down in the smaller things that seem like details when drafting final settlement agreements.

The Right of First Refusal

One of those details that is actually pretty important when it comes to making decisions about the children of the marriage is what is known as the right of first refusal.

There are times when a party has timesharing with the children when that party may need a babysitter. Maybe it’s because of a work engagement, maybe it’s a social event, or some sort of emergency, but for whatever reason, temporary child care (maybe just for a few hours) is needed.

As the name suggests, the right of first refusal is a provision in a marital settlement agreement or parenting plan, that says that if one party needs temporary, short term childcare, that the other parent will be contacted and given the opportunity to watch the children, before a third party like a babysitter is contacted. If the other parent cannot take the child, a babysitter, relative, or other third party can be used just as they normally would.

Pros and Cons to First Refusals

The pros to this provision is that it could provide you with some extra unexpected time with your children, and there is no consequence if you are not in a position to watch the children for your ex spouse. It also may provide you with some security, if you have concern about your ex spouse’s selection of babysitters, or whoever they would leave the children to be with.

The negatives should be considered as well. First, the provision means you may be in contact with your ex more than you normally would—if you have a working relationship, that’s no problem, but if not, you may want to think about that.

The location of your ex spouse should be considered also. If he or she is not living close by, you may be obligating yourself to drive the children somewhere unless you and your ex are OK with he or she coming to your house to watch the children.

There is also a minor invasion of privacy—every time that you are on a date, or at a work function, or have a personal emergency, your ex is going to know about it.

The Provision Must be Followed

The right of first refusal also places another legal obligation on you to make a good faith effort to contact your ex before finding a babysitter. If this extra step makes it too difficult or time consuming every time you need babysitting, you could be violating your marital settlement agreement.

Our Tampa family law attorneys at The Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can help you with your family law problems and answer your questions about child custody and timesharing.

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