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Should you offer your ex the “right of first refusal” with the kids?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2021 | Child Custody

It happens all too frequently in custody cases: One spouse is dissatisfied with their reduced time spent with the children. They may grouse about it openly or nurse a silent grudge, but their discontent is obvious.

What can, or should, you do? You certainly don’t want to get hauled back into court over the matter. Fortunately, there may be a far easier way to handle it.

Offer your co-parent the right of first refusal

In practical terms, the right of first refusal means that any time the kids are scheduled to be with you, but something (getting called into work, a weekend getaway with friends, illness) interferes with your parenting arrangements, before you can arrange for another caregiver options, you must first offer the opportunity to your co-parent so they could theoretically spend more time with their kids.

Why it can work

Other than reducing the amount of whining from your ex about their insufficient time with the children, there are several advantages to this. The courts favor these agreements because statistics show that children who spend more time with parents and less with caregivers develop better social skills and exhibit less aggression to others. It can also please the kids to have more time to spend with their other parent.

Why it might not be a great idea

Not everyone’s work schedules and lives are flexible enough to take advantage of these spontaneous events. Your ex may resent having to turn down an opportunity. Older kids might worry that their other parent’s refusal could indicate they are low on that parent’s priority totem pole even if that is far from the truth.

These arrangements also require close communication with the other parent, something you may loathe doing. Obviously, ex-spouses who don’t have a great deal of acrimony between them can make this work easier than those former couples who still harbor resentments from the marriage. But there are software programs co-parents can use that allow them to communicate about the children without actually engaging with one another. 

Learn more about all your custody and visitation options

The best way to approach this is to ask your family law attorney if this concept can be included with any custody judgments from the court or modified into a new one.