When you share parenting time of your child with your ex-spouse, your ability to control what the other parent does with his or her time is limited. Unless the child is being placed in danger, your former partner is essentially free to parent as he or she sees fit. For the most part, as long as your child is happy and safe, you are probably able to accept this particular aspect of post-divorce co-parenting. However, what about the times when the other parent needs to hire a babysitter or make other childcare arrangements during his or her parenting time? Do you have any say in the matter? Depending upon the terms of your parenting plan or parental responsibilities order, you may, in fact, have certain rights.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that divorced, separated, or unmarried parents may include the right of first refusal in their parenting agreement. As such, it important to understand what that right entails. According to the law, the right of first refusal means that if a parent intends to leave his or her child with a “substitute child-care provider for a significant period of time,” the parent must first offer the other parent the opportunity to care for the child. In other words, if the right of first refusal is included in your agreement and you need a sitter for a significant period of time, you must first ask the other parent if he or she wants to care for your child.
Reaching an Agreement
The law is intentionally vague regarding what constitutes a “significant period of time,” because such a determination is best made by the affected parties. If you want the right of first refusal, you and the other parent must decide how and when the right will be invoked. For example, you may decide that if one of you needs to find childcare for a single evening, hiring a sitter or asking a family member is acceptable, but if you need substitute care for a whole day or more, you will need to ask the other parent first. You will also want to discuss transportation arrangements and any other potential concerns so that they can be addressed before problems arise.
The right of first refusal is just one of many elements that must be discussed when developing a comprehensive parenting plan. If you have questions about the process or your rights under the law, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-377-7770 to get the answers you need to make the best decisions for yourself and your children.