Understanding the Right of First Refusal in Child Custody


Do you want to know how the right of first refusal in child custody works in Missouri? Get in touch with The Carson Law Firm today. We can help you. Give us a call today.

What Is the Right of First Refusal in Child Custody?

When parents go through a separation, navigating the co-parenting responsibilities becomes paramount. Such responsibilities are especially important regarding child custody agreements to avoid parental kidnapping cases. In Missouri, these agreements typically involve a parenting plan that outlines each parent’s designated time with their child, also called parenting time. However, situations can arise where one parent faces work conflicts or unexpected emergencies. These necessitate alternative child care arrangements with friends, relatives, or babysitters.

This is where the concept of “right of first refusal” in a child custody agreement comes in. This provision requires that when a parent encounters the need for alternative arrangements of child care during his or her parenting time, they must first extend the opportunity to the other parent before seeking external assistance. This helps maximize the child’s time with their parents, promoting their best interests.

Would you like to include a right of first refusal clause in your child custody agreement? Consult with a child custody lawyer in Clayton, MO. They can provide valuable insights into how it can impact your parenting arrangements.

How the Right of First Refusal Works

A right of first refusal clause changes the dynamic of child custody and parenting agreement. It mandates that the parent needing child care assistance must contact the other parent first. You have to request their assistance before turning to a babysitter or other family members.

This provision applies to both a spontaneous child care issue and a planned event. Suppose the other parent declines the offer. That’s when the custodial parent can explore alternative child care options.

A right of first refusal is a consideration that parents and their legal counsel can evaluate. You can consider it based on what suits your family dynamics and the child’s best interests.

When Does Right of First Refusal Apply?

The right of first refusal applies to many situations where other plans or events may affect a parent’s time with the child. For example:

Suppose one parent has to attend a business conference for a day. They have to first ask the other parent if they want to care for the child during that time. This situation gives the other parent a chance to have more parenting time with the child. If the other parent declines, then the parent can look for another person or make alternative arrangements to watch the child. These could be any of the following:

  • A relative
  • A friend
  • A babysitter

The right of first refusal can also cover other cases, such as:

  • Medical appointments
  • Vacations
  • After-school programs
  • Any other instances that are mentioned in the court order or parenting plan

This provision ensures that the child spends as much time as possible with both parents and that their best interests are always considered in custody arrangements.

What Happens if a Parent Violates the Right of First Refusal?

It is essential to follow the guidelines set by the court order. Violating the provisions of the court order could get you in trouble with the law. You may be required to appear before the court and provide an explanation for your non-compliance with the court order, which is referred to as a “show cause” hearing. During this proceeding, you must demonstrate that your failure to obey the order was not deliberate and did not exhibit a negative attitude.

On the other hand, the party dissatisfied with your actions will try to establish to the court that you intentionally disregarded the order, effectively proving “willful and contumacious” conduct.

If the court concurs that you violated the order, various consequences may ensue, contingent upon the circumstances of the case. These consequences may include:

  1. Reduction in allocated quality time with your child.
  2. Imposition of fines.
  3. Imposition of deadlines for compliance with the order.
  4. The requirement to cover the legal expenses of the opposing party.

The judge will determine the appropriate course of action based on the duration and severity of your non-compliance. For instance, if you fail to adhere to the order on a single occasion, the judge may allocate additional hours for the other parent to spend with the child in the future.

Can the Right of First Refusal Be Modified?

The right of first refusal can be modified if both parents agree or the court thinks it is better for the child. However, any changes or waivers must follow the correct legal steps to ensure the child is safe and happy.

Parents have to follow a formal legal process to modify the right of first refusal clause in a parenting plan/custody order. They have to ask the court for permission and furnish evidence to demonstrate that something significant has changed, necessitating change. Enlisting help from a knowledgeable divorce lawyer may be a good idea to protect the child’s interests. An experienced lawyer from The Carson Law Firm can guide you through the legal requirements.

Can the Right of First Refusal Clause Be Implemented in Joint Custody Agreements?

The answer to this question depends on the terms outlined in the parenting plan or custody agreement.

Some parents incorporate it to ensure that when one parent requires child care assistance, they approach the other parent first. It improves the child’s exposure to both parents and their respective parenting time. It also prioritizes the child’s best interests in custody matters. Nonetheless, doing so can pose challenges. Issues may arise concerning the following:

  • The specified time limit

  • Communication methods

  • Transportation logistics

  • Enforcing the clause

Inconsistency in invoking this right can lead to stress for both parents. Therefore, you should assess the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating the right into your joint custody agreement. Better yet, consider seeking legal counsel from a family law attorney.

Contact Us Today at The Carlson Law Firm!

Are you dealing with the right of first refusal in child custody? You may have concerns such as, “How is child custody determined in Missouri?” Contact a skilled family law lawyer from the The Carson Law Firm. We can assist you in negotiating, modifying, or enforcing a right of first refusal clause in your custody agreement.

We help our clients make informed decisions that prioritize their children’s well-being. Contact us today at The Carson Law Firm for a consultation.

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