Right of First Refusal

In the past week, two potential clients have reached out to me to ask me about their rights to parent when the other parent is unavailable. In one situation, the other parent works crazy hours and the child is being left with a new significant other. In the other, two kids are being left behind with a step-mother when dad leaves town, and step-mother is not letting mother see the kids during “father’s time.”

What causes me concern is that in neither case did other attorneys include language in parenting plans that give parents the right of first refusal. Both situations involved young attorneys without a great deal of family law experience. Simply put, this borders on malpractice.

The right of first refusal is pretty simple. It stands for the proposition that when a parent is unavailable to parent during his or her regularly scheduled time, the other parent has the first right to have that time. If neither parent is available, it is up to the parent whose regularly scheduled time is being missed to make arrangements for the kids. Had that language been included in either of the cases I mentioned above, the kids involved would be spending nights with their parents.

At Ammarell Deasy, LLP, we don’t make the mistake of leaving such language out of our parenting plans. When I read these plans, it made me think “you get what you pay for” everyday, and when you save a few bucks by hiring the latest internet sensation as a lawyer, you may be throwing your money away . . . only to spend more making it right after the fact. Make sure your lawyer is paying attention when it comes to your kids!

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