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Right of First Refusal for Child Care

Divorce can be a very challenging and overwhelming time in a person’s life. While you may feel relieved to be free of the tension and strife that plagued your marriage, it can also be challenging to adjust to being single again outside the habit of being married. Creating a “right of first refusal” in your parenting order or divorce decree can take some of the pressure off and helps reassure your children that not everything in their lives has changed.

The right of first refusal was implemented as part of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act in January 2014. The statutory provision gives the Illinois courts specific authority to consider granting one or both parents the right to provide child care for their child during the other parent’s normal parenting time if the parent intends to leave the minor child with a third party childcare provider. Although this new statute does not afford an automatic right of first refusal and the courts must make the decision consistent with the best interest of the child, it does identify a definite preference for parents providing care and supervision to their children in lieu of a third party childcare provider.

Whether parents agree or the judge chooses to grant a right of first refusal as a provision of joint custody or visitation, the provision should include specific considerations such as the length of time the child will be cared for, transportation arrangements, the method of notification and response, and any other action necessary to promote the best interest of the child. While the law is certain to require some minor adjustments, in some circumstances the right of first refusal is likely to help children have more time with both parents, which is essential to your child’s sense of self-worth, and may afford parents the opportunity to take actionable steps to stay healthy and move their lives forward. Be the best you can be for yourself and your children: keep doctor’s appointments, your workout schedule, take a class or learn a new skill. The happier you are, the happier your family will be.

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