Most parents must use child care at least occasionally, if not every day. When you and your children’s other parent are negotiating over the parenting planit may seem like a good idea to include a right of first refusal clause, particularly if your former spouse has an unpredictable work schedule or travels frequently.  

In some cases, though, these clauses lead to disputes rather than reducing the need for outside child care. 

What is right of first refusal? 

Basically, this clause allows you or the other parent to take the children when the one who has them must be away from them for a certain period of time. For example, a right of first refusal clause may state that if the other parent needs child care for more than four hours, before taking the kids to day care or finding a sitter, he or she must ask if you want the children to stay with you during that time, and vice versa.  

When might the right of first refusal cause trouble? 

Suppose your mother asks if the kids can spend Saturday with her. Not only will they have fun, you will have some time to get some shopping done for the holiday. However, if the children mention to their other parent that they stayed at Grandma’s house while you went shopping, the other parent could claim that you are in contempt for violating the custody decree.  

Similar issues could arise when children spend the night with friends or go to camp during school holidays. 

When is a right of first refusal clause a good idea? 

If you and the other parent trust each other as co-parents and recognize the benefits your children enjoy from spending time with friends and family, the clause may not cause any trouble between you.  

This clause may also be safe to include if you craft the language so that it still allows your children to spend time with their friends and family