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How Right to First Refusal Affects Child Custody Cases

During divorce proceedings with an ex-spouse in Boston, there are many details that need to be discussed regarding how marital assets will be split between the both of you, who will live in the house, and if there will be alimony paid out. Yet another important factor that needs to be decided during the divorce hearing concerns child custody. It will be decided between you and your ex-spouse whether one will have full custody or if both will have joint custody of your children. When drafting the child custody agreement, a “right of first refusal” clause may be added to allow a non-custodial parent to have their children when the other parent is not available.

What is Right of First Refusal?

The right of first refusal clause allows for a parent to spend more time with their children and take care of them when the other parent is not able to do so due to prior work schedules, daily life situations or emergency circumstances. These time periods where the ex-spouse is given the opportunity to watch the children can fall outside the normal child visitation time frames.

With this clause, the other parent will have the opportunity to state whether they want to take care of the children before babysitters, other guardians, step parents, grandparents or in-laws step in. It can be used by a non-custodial parent to ensure their legal rights are protected as they cannot be kept away from their kids by either the custodial parent, other relatives, or step parents who may decide not to relinquish the children over to the non-custodial parent.

How Does Right of First Refusal Work?

If you decide to go on a date to a restaurant, you would need to call the ex-spouse first to see if they could look after the children for several hours. The ex-spouse is given the first option to watch the children. If the ex-spouse cannot watch the kids, they can refuse. Then you can call a babysitter, friends, or the grandparents to watch the children during the time when you are at the restaurant.

The custodial parent will always have to contact the non-custodial parent first to see if they will watch the children no matter how long or how short of a time period the custodial parent will be away from the kids, unless a time frame is stated in the child custody agreement. It can be used when you are going on vacation, running out to do daily errands, or need to go to a doctor’s appointment as the children cannot be with you. The right of first refusal clause can also be used when a parent has a medical emergency or has been in an accident as you will oversee the care of the children until the other parent is released from the hospital.

How is This Clause Enforced?

Both parents have to state and agree that they want the right of first refusal clause placed into the child custody agreement. Once it is included in the agreement, the parent who has custody of the children will have to contact the other parent to see if they can watch the kids. If the custodial parent refuses to abide by the right of first refusal clause and instead contacts a babysitter or their parents to watch the children, they can be held in contempt of the custody agreement. A complaint can be filed against the other parent in court when such an event occurs.

If someone has the child, such as a stepparent or grandparents, because the other parent cannot watch the child due to a medical emergency, then you can ask for the child to be given over to you. If they still will not relinquish the child over to you, you can contact law enforcement for assistance and show them the custody agreement as the police will enforce the custody order.

Why Is Right of First Refusal Important?

The reason that many parents agree to the right to first refusal clause in a child custody agreement is that it will allow parents to spend more time with their children outside of normal visitation hours. It also can give peace of mind if you don’t want to have a stranger watch the child while the custodial parent is away. Another benefit is that it can help parents maintain strong and loving relationships with their children, as the kids will know that one of their parents will always be there to take care of them when the other parent is away.

Getting Legal Help with Child Custody Agreements

When you are going through a lengthy divorce that involves marital assets and child custody, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney to represent you in the custody hearing. Here at Infinity Law Group, we help people in the Boston, MA region create the desired child custody arrangements that in the best interests of the parents as well as for the children. Contact our office today for our family law services.