In 2014, a new law went into effect in Illinois that allows courts to give parents with joint custody arrangements a right of first refusal when it comes to the care of their children. A right of first refusal means that a parent cannot leave their child with a third party (such as a baby-sitter or relative) for more than four hours without first offering the other parent the opportunity to watch the child.
Divorcing couples can agree to a right of first refusal when they are deciding on their custody and/or visitation rights. If a couple does not agree to a right of first refusal, the law allows a court to rule that both parents in a joint custody arrangement be given this right.
What Does This Mean For My Custody Rights?
If you and your child’s other parent have not chosen to include a right of first refusal clause in your joint custody agreement, and a court has not insisted on a right of first refusal, then this law does not impact your custody situation.
If your custody arrangements have not been finalized, you should be aware that if you do not choose to include a right of first refusal, a judge (or other representative of the court) may ultimately make that decision for you. However, courts are not obligated to grant a right of first refusal in all joint custody cases – only in cases where they find that it would be in the best interests of the children involved.
When a court insists on a right of first refusal, it will make provisions regarding the following:
- What kind of child-care requirements will be involved, and the length of time the children will need to be cared for;
- Notification to the other parent, and his or her response;
- Transportation requirements; and
- Any other action necessary to protect and promote the best interests of the children.
If a court has ruled that there be a right of first refusal in your custody agreement, you should be aware that the law requires the parent who is exercising the right of first refusal to provide transportation (unless both parents agree otherwise.) For example, if your former spouse notifies you that he or she will need childcare at a certain point in time, and you decide to take care of the children yourself – rather than allowing the children to be cared for by a third party – then you are required to provide the transportation to pick the children up and bring them back.
You should also be aware that if your joint custody or visitation rights are terminated, then the right of first refusal will be terminated as well.
If you would like to know more about the new law, or you have any other questions about custody or visitation, you can contact Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. in Naperville, Illinois, and get the assistance of an experienced family law attorney today.