One of the most frustrating parts of a divorce or child custody case is interpreting legal jargon and unfamiliar language. For example, while the term child custody is still sometimes used in casual settings, Illinois law refers to child custody as “the allocation of parental responsibilities,” and visitation is legally known as “parenting time.”
If you are a parent getting divorced, you may have questions about the language used in the parenting plan. One term many people are confused by is “the right of first refusal.” A skilled family law attorney can help you understand the right of first refusal and how you can use this element of your parenting plan to benefit you and your children.
Parenting Time Schedules in Your Illinois Parenting Plan
A crucial element of any parenting plan is the parenting time schedule. Illinois law states that parents must either create a schedule for sharing parenting time or a method for determining parenting time that is detailed enough to be enforced by the court, if needed. Some parents choose to alternate weeks, while others have the child stay with one parent during the week and the other parent during the weekend. If you and your child’s other parent can agree, you can divide parenting time however you see fit. But what happens when the parent who is assigned parenting time cannot watch the child? This is where the right of first refusal comes in.
The Right of First Refusal
The right of first refusal applies when a parent cannot fulfill their parenting time obligation. Work responsibilities, family illnesses, vacations, and countless other issues may arise that could conflict with a parent’s assigned parenting time. If a parent cannot care for child, the right of first refusal gives the other parent the chance to “refuse” extra parenting time before the parent can seek third-party child care.
Consider the following example:
A mother is assigned parenting time Friday through Sunday. However, a work trip requires her to be out of town for the weekend. If the couple’s parenting plan gives the right of first refusal to the father, she would need to check with him to see if he can watch the children during the weekend before she asks a nanny, babysitter, relative or another party to watch the children.
According to the law in Illinois, divorcing parents who plan to share custodial responsibilities for their child must address the right of first refusal in their parenting plan. Parents will need to determine if, how, and when the right of first refusal applies to their situation. For example, does an absence of only a few hours trigger the right of first refusal? What about a multiple-day absence? How will the child be transported between the homes if the right of first refusal is invoked? Alternatively, parents could elect not to include the right of first refusal in their plan, but they must actively address the topic.
Contact a Cook County Child Custody Lawyer
The right of first refusal can be a great way for parents to enjoy additional parenting time with the children. To learn more or for help with your parenting plan, contact an experienced Chicago family law attorney at NextLevel Law, P.C. by Daniel R. Hernandez, Esq.. Call 312-442-2225 for a free consultation and case review with a member of our team today.