Illinois law now allows for right of first refusal
A right of first refusal is an important clause in many custody plans. Through a right of first refusal, a party has to first offer custody rights to the other parent before offering the children to third parties.
This means that before a parent offers their custody time to grandparents, other relatives or friends, if this clause is in a custody order, that parent has to offer the children to the other parent first in instances where they are not able exercise their custody time.
Many people seek these clauses in custody cases to try and enhance the amount of time they can spend with their children. Up until recently, there was no stautory authority for these clauses in Illinois.
On a related note, shared parenting is become preferential in many jurisdictions nationwide. It used to be that psychological researchers believed that children should live in one home predominately. The belief was that children did better when they lived in one home the majority of the time.
That research, however, has been largely turned upside down on its head. New research actually shows that children tend to fare better when shared parenting is implemented. Shared parenting is when children spend significant time with both parents versus being predominately in one home. Given this new research, many have called for Illinois to implement shared parenting, although this has not happened to date.
While shared parenting has is not the law in Illinois yet, the ability for courts to order a right of first refusal clause might be an important first step is this direction. It can also be helpful to men going through divorce or paternity cases. Many fathers will now be able to argue for a right of first refusal in court to increase their overall custody time.
The new right of first refusal law went into effect January 1, 2014. This law does not apply retroactively to prior custody orders as well. It is also not mandatory.
Instead, judges simply have the discretion now to request a right of first refusal where no statutory existed prior to this time for the non-custodial parent (who is most often the father). These clauses, when ordered, can result in more custody time for the non-custodial parent (which is often the dad).
It is important that fathers going through child custody cases in Illinois have effeective representation to guide them through family law matter. Seeking a right of first refusal is something many parents will want to request in family court.