Can you call dibs on caring for your kids after your divorce?

| Jul 16, 2020 | Firm News

As a parent of teenagers, you have probably heard your kids call dibs on something hundreds of times. This time-honored tradition allows young ones to claim priority over their siblings. While calling dibs is effective with the front seat or the last of the ice cream, you may wonder if you can call dibs on caring for your kids after your divorce.

If you are negotiating joint custody with your soon-to-be ex-spouse as part of your divorce, you may want to include a right of first refusal provision in your parenting plan. With this type of provision, your ex-spouse must offer you parenting time before leaving the kids with a friend, family member, babysitter or anyone else.

Maintain some control

Co-parenting in a post-divorce family often has some inevitable challenges. Nonetheless, if you do not like your ex-spouse’s family members or new love interest, you may object to their caring for the kids when your former spouse is not around during his or her scheduled parenting time.

With a right of first refusal clause, you maintain some control over which individuals spend time with your children. After all, if you agree to watch your kids in your ex-spouse’s absence, the children do not end up in the care of someone you distrust or dislike.

On the other hand, if you do not have sufficient time to take the kids, you can simply refuse.

Remove some uncertainty

In New Jersey, judges must consider the best interests of the kids when determining custody and other child-related matters. Still, parents in the Garden State do not have a general right to interfere with a co-parent’s decision-making process.

While you may certainly ask your former spouse to keep your kids away from some individuals, you likely have little authority to force him or her to do so. If your parenting plan contains a right of first refusal clause, though, your ex-spouse has a legal obligation to adhere to it.

Put simply, because including a first right of refusal provision in your parenting plan helps you remove some uncertainty from your co-parenting arrangement, you may want to negotiate one during your divorce proceedings.