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The Right Of First Refusal May Be A Good Idea In Your Parenting Agreement


Sharing  custody of children following divorce is a guarantee that there will be times when the parent who has custody finds themselves in need of childcare so that parent can work, socialize, or otherwise be away from home.  When this happens, the other co-parent may prefer to pick up a little extra time with the kids.  Some view this as the logical choice when looking for childcare, while others bristle at the idea of letting their ex have more time with the kids. Perhaps including the right of first refusal (ROFR) in a parenting plan is worth doing in the latter circumstance.

Right of First Refusal 

The ROFR is simply an agreement that the non-custodial parent will get first dibs on being with the kids whenever childcare is needed. In Maryland, the ROFR gives a parent the right to be consulted for childcare without obligating them to it.  It’s especially important when one parent fears the kids may be left with someone  who is irresponsible or unsafe.


In addition to safety issues, ROFR provides flexible scheduling, and it provides guilt- and cost-free time away for one co- parent, while providing additional time for the kids to spend time with their other co- parent.


ROFR may be problematic when co-parents struggle with effective communication.  When contact between co-parents is generally destructive, vague, or strained, it may be difficult (though not impossible) to pull off ROFR.

It is Possible 

For co-parents who have a hard time cooperating, there are strategies to help make it work. When co-parents work together to establish clear and effective communication strategies, they often find it is a good way to minimize conflict.  They strive to keep one another informed about tentative plans so both parents are ready for possible time with the children. Another tip is to give the other parent plenty of notice about the need for parental supervision duty.  Effective co-parents clarify changes they might need to make in a way that optimizes the outcomes for all parties, avoiding the creation of winners and losers. Whether communicating in person, through phone calls, email, or text, effective co-parents include any necessary details and behave pleasantly.  If communication is especially strained, or for co-parents who really like efficiency,  there are apps that can notify of calendar changes and give the other parent a time frame in which to claim the time for parenting before the person initiating the request seeks outside care. One such app worth investigating is the Trade/Swap function on the OurFamilyWizard Calendar.

5 Communication Tips 

Although you may not prefer to communicate with your former spouse it is nevertheless imperative when you share the obligation of raising children together.  Tuning up your own communication skills may help matters:

  • Set and uphold the boundaries you need.
  • Practice problem solving, listening, and considering multiple perspectives on issues.
  • Use breathing techniques and/or take breaks from the conversation when things start to go off the rails. (That doesn’t mean hanging up on an ex; it means telling them you need a short break and revisiting the issue later when you’re better prepared mentally).
  • Consistently check in with your co-parent to address any concerns before they become big issues.
  • Respect your ex for what they bring to the table in terms of parenting.

Making it Work 

At The Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes, our experienced Baltimore family attorneys understand the challenges that come with divorce and are prepared to assist you in developing a parenting plan that works for you. To discuss, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.

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