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Right of First Refusal

What is the Right of First Refusal in Texas Custody Cases?

When child custody agreements are ironed out, parents sometimes include an optional clause called the “Right of First Refusal.” This requires a parent to offer the other parent the opportunity to watch their child before contacting a babysitter or a relative if they have a child-care issue.

On the surface, this seems like a win-win. One parent doesn’t have to worry about finding (or paying) a babysitter, while the co-parent gets more time with the child. However, the right of first refusal in Texas custody situations can often cause more problems than it solves. In many cases, it leads to conflict between parents who are already struggling to co-parent effectively.

In this blog post, we explain the right of first refusal in Texas custody cases, including the pros and cons of having this clause in your parenting plan.

What is the right of first refusal in Texas custody cases?

The right of first refusal – also referred to as the right of first option – is a provision in a parenting plan or custody agreement that requires a parent to contact the co-parent if they are having a child care issue. The purpose of this clause is to offer the co-parent more parenting time instead of using a babysitter, another relative, or daycare.

For example, let’s say that a mother has to work late or unexpectedly and she needs someone to watch her child for a few hours. Rather than contacting a babysitter or a relative, she would first have to contact the child’s father and give him the opportunity to watch the child.

It’s important to point out that the right of first refusal is not codified in the Texas Family Code, which means that it is not a legal requirement for parents to include this clause in their parenting plan. However, many judges will order the right of first refusal as a way to encourage co-parenting and minimize conflict between parents.

How does the right of first refusal in Texas custody agreements work?

The right of first refusal in Texas custody cases works like this:
* If either parent has a conflict and can’t watch their child for any reason, they must first offer the other parent the opportunity to do so.
* The other parent can agree to take the child or decline.
* Only if the other parent is unavailable or unwilling to take on child-care duties will the first parent be able to contact a babysitter, relative, or seek help elsewhere.

What are the advantages of having the right of first refusal in Texas custody situations?

The right of first refusal can be a great option for busy parents who live close to each other and have a good relationship. It allows for flexible and additional parenting time – and also peace of mind and convenience.

For example, if a parent is going on a business trip or has to work extra shifts, the other parent can easily and quickly fill in. This avoids the need to scramble for child care at the last minute, which can be stressful.

Another advantage is that it provides a sense of security for children. They know they will almost always have a parent available to care for them, even if one parent is unavailable.

What are the disadvantages to having a provision for the right of first refusal in Texas custody cases?

In many cases, the right of first refusal clause is not well-defined, which can lead to disagreements and conflict between the parents. This is especially true if one parent feels they are being taken advantage of so the other parent can go out at the last minute or is just trying to avoid paying for child care.

If stepparents are involved, it can also create discord. For example, if the child’s father remarries and his new wife has children of her own, she may not want the stepchild over every time the child’s mother has something come up.

Another disadvantage is that can put additional pressure on the relationship between the parents. If they are already struggling to communicate and co-parent effectively, this clause can make things worse. Parents may feel like the other parent springs child-care duties on them at the last minute, and they are reluctant to say no – even if they have a prior engagement or are unprepared for a child visit.

Finally, some parents feel this clause creates an invasion of privacy. Because they have to contact their ex every time they have a childcare issue, it can make it difficult to date or go out with friends or move forward with their lives.

Can we establish specific guidelines for the right of first refusal in Texas custody agreements?

Yes, it is very important to have a clear and concise right of first refusal clause in your child custody agreement or parenting plan. It should establish very specific parameters so that there is no room for misunderstanding or conflict.

For example, some parents have the provision that anytime a parent needs to watch the child – even if it’s for an hour – they have to contact the other parent. This is not always practical, so you may consider specifying that the right of first refusal only applies if the child needs to be watched for a certain number of hours or overnight.

It’s also important to include how much notice must be given to the other parent. For example, the agreement could require that the parent give at least a 12-hour notice, or even 24 hours, for overnight or lengthy stays.

It’s also a good idea to establish what happens if the other parent is unavailable or declines. For example, you may want to include that the child can then go to a specific relative or close family friend.

Is the Right of First Refusal Right in Texas Right for You?

If you’re considering including the right of first refusal in your child custody agreement, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully. Talk to an experienced family law attorney to get more information about how this clause could impact your situation.

In some cases, it may be the best option for your family. In other cases, it may do more harm than good. Our team at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group can help you create a custody agreement that is right for your family. Contact us today at 817-900-3220 to schedule a consultation. We’ll help you make the best decision for your family’s future.

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