In an historic move, Illinois unanimously passed the ‘Right of First Refusal’ on May 22 (HB2992, 98th Session).
Illinois becomes the first state to explicitly call for consideration of the ‘Right of First Refusal’ in a parenting plan or court order.
It will be added as Section 602.3 to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The bill is currently on the governor’s desk for his expected signature.
‘Right of First Refusal’ is a guarantee that anytime a parent needs someone to watch the children, they must ask the other parent first. This gives a parent the opportunity to watch the children when the other parent has them.
Right of First Refusal Case Example
As an example, let’s say that the mother of two little boys needs to go on a two-day business trip during the week when she has custody. Instead of calling a babysitter or another family member to watch the children, she must first call the boys’ father and give him the right to have the two days with the children. If he refuses, then she can find someone else to watch them.
It is the responsibility of the parent with the children to notify the other parent no later than 24 hours from the time of first learning of the need to leave the children. It is the responsibility of the other parent to respond within 24 hours of notification. It is the responsibility of the parent with the additional parenting time to provide all transportation.
Best Interest of the Child Standard
The court is given the maximum discretion in determining if ‘Right of First Refusal’ is in the child’s best interest.
Once determined the court issues an order that includes provisions regarding:
a) what would trigger the invocation of right of first refusal, such as the length of time the parent will be away from the child;
b) how much advance notice the parent with the child must give the other parent;
c) the amount of time by which that parent must respond; and
d) transportation requirements.
The court takes into account the distance between parents, and if a parent has restricted or denied visitation for any reason. The provisions set forth by the bill are enforceable under “Enforcement of Visitation Order; Visitation Abuse” statutes.
Current research shows the increased degree to which both parents share in the direct caretaking of their children during marriage. We know how difficult it is for non-residential parents to remain meaningfully involved in the lives of their children after divorce.
Some experts say this accounts for the recent rise in the number of non-residential parents who have no contact with their children despite decades of improvement. The pain and frustration of no longer having the contact they used to have with their children become too unbearable for many parents.
‘Right of First Refusal’ provides the opportunity for much desired additional parenting time, especially for non-residential parents.
‘Right of First Refusal’ also allows children to remain with their natural parents rather than with other people for extended periods of time. Illinois recognizes the valuable contributions extended family and stepparents make to the wellbeing of children. Specific statutes are in place to protect their relationship with the children.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that the child’s natural parents are the preferred caregivers under most circumstances. Illinois concurs.
By ensuring a meaningful relationship between the child and the natural parent we see greater child support compliance and continuing contributions when the child reaches majority age. We also see greater support by the child to aging parents.
‘Right of First Refusal’ can also encourage even greater cooperation among parents in that the other parent must be considered as an integral part of the child’s life. ‘Right of First Refusal’ goes far in supporting the maximum involvement of both parents to the wellbeing of a child. And that’s always in the child’s best interest.
The mission of Illinois Fathers, an Illinois Not for Profit Corporation, is to assist non-custodial parents in maintaining a meaningful and substantial relationship with their children and to educate the general public about the importance of such parent/child relationship.