A recent amendment to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage (IMDMA) act provides more opportunities for divorced parents without primary custody to spend time with their children. The historic move by the state’s legislature passed the “Right of First Refusal” in 2013. Added as Section 602.3 to the IMDMA and put into effect in January 2014, the ruling recognizes Illinois’ new focus on a child’s natural parents as the best caregivers, when possible. An Illinois child custody lawyer understands that the option for more parenting time can be beneficial to parent and child.
Right of First Refusal basics
According to the IMDMA, the Right of First Refusal means that “both parties have the right of first refusal to care for the minor children if the absence of either party is necessary during the party’s normal parenting time.” With first-right refusal, parents are required to inform each other of times when they are unable to stay with the children. Instead of contacting friends or family members, a parent must first check with the other to see if he or she would like the chance to spend time with children before obtaining third-party childcare.
The law states that it is the responsibility of the parent in need of childcare to notify the other parent no less than 24 hours from learning that he or she needs to leave the couples’ children for more than four hours. The other parent must respond by either accepting or refusing within 24 hours of receiving notice.
A child’s best interest
As with all laws regarding child custody issues, the best interest of a child is the most important factor in determining whether the Right of First Refusal applies in a specific divorce case. The court may issue an order for first-right refusal by considering many factors, including the following:
- Transportation requirements
- How notification and responses should be given
- The type of childcare requirements that elicit the right
- Any restricted visitation
An Illinois child custody lawyer knows that the first-right refusal only applies to those parties who have joint custody.
Compelling shared parenting time
Even when parents utilize an Illinois child custody lawyer to create a parenting plan, it is not always easy to put past issues aside for the benefit of the children. The intent of the Right of First Refusal is to compel parents to share parenting time when possible. While the state recognizes that relationships with extended family members and step-families are important for children, it also seeks to protect the relationships between children and their natural parents.