A change to Illinois divorce laws went into effect at the start of this year, and it has important implications for parents who rely on childcare. Parents used to be able to arrange for childcare in any way they saw fit, so long as they had custody of the child. However, the legislature recently altered the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, and now that may not be the case for all parents. The legislature recently instituted a right of first refusal for parents in childcare situations. This means that parents looking to arrange childcare must first offer the other parent the option of watching the kids before letting someone else take over. The idea is based on the fact that Illinois child custody law is designed to look after the childs best interests, and that it is often in the childs best interests to have as much time with both parents as possible.
When the Right Applies
Importantly, the right does not apply to all parents. Instead, courts can choose to award the right of first refusal for childcare during the divorce process. However, the judge may not award the right unless it is either a joint custody situation or a situation where one parent has custody and the other has visitation rights. While the specifics of the right vary based on judicial discretion, it can apply very broadly. The idea is not simply to replace babysitters or nannies with the other parent. The right can also give the other parent the option of watching the child instead of grandparents or family friends. However, the law does allow parents some flexibility. If an emergency occurs and the custodial parent requires childcare with little warning, then they are not required to abide by the right of first refusal.
How the Right Works
The practical portions of the right of first refusal are set up when the judge decides to award the right as part of the divorce decree. The parents are allowed to negotiate the best practical way of implementing the right, but the judge can also step in and make decisions if necessary. The practical questions include things like the length of time that the childcare would last for, how the custodial parent should notify the other parent of the opportunity, the way the other parent should respond, who is responsible for dropping off or picking up the child in the event that the right is exercised, and any other practical issues that may affect the interests of the child.
The right of first refusal is just one of many changes that the legislature has implemented to Illinois family law over the past year. If you are considering filing for divorce, reach out to a dedicated Naperville divorce attorney to make sure that you know your rights.