IL divorce lawyerThere are many different pieces to an effective parenting plan, and something called the “right of first refusal” is one of the most important. Understanding the right of first refusal, and how it can help you spend more time with your children, is essential to creating a parenting plan that works for you. In this blog, we will answer some common questions about the right of first refusal and how it can benefit divorced parents in Illinois.

What Is the “Right of First Refusal” in Illinois?

When making decisions regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time agreements, Illinois courts and judges prioritize the wellbeing of children above all else. In recent years, an abundance of research has been done that supports the idea that children do best when both parents have an active presence in their lives. This means that, whenever it is safe and possible to do so, courts will give preference to parenting plans that allow each parent to maximize the time they spend with their child.

The right of first refusal is one effective way to do this because it requires divorced parents to ask each other to provide childcare rather than hiring a babysitter or asking another family member. Of course, this is not always possible or practical, so parents have wide leeway in creating a right of first refusal arrangement that works best for their circumstances.

What are Common “Right of First Refusal” Arrangements?

Each family’s circumstances are unique; so too will be the situations that trigger the right of first refusal. If parents live very close to each other and transferring the children between households causes little disruption to the children, then parents might agree to require the right of first refusal whenever they are gone for just a few hours.

If parents live far away from each other, or if contact between parents frequently causes arguments, a parent’s absence from the children may be longer before the right of first refusal is invoked. Other circumstances may also affect the right of first refusal. For example, if a parent must be gone for six hours and an absence of that length would generally oblige them to offer the other parent the right of first refusal, but it would be on a school night and the children could not get to school from the other parent’s house, invoking the right of first refusal would not make sense.


IL family lawyerDivorces, and the accompanying disputes about parenting time and allocation of parental responsibilities, are exhausting. Unfortunately for some parents in Illinois, the troubles do not end with the divorce. Some parents refuse to adhere to the terms of the parenting agreement, causing problems for the children and headaches for their other parent.

But parenting agreements are legally binding orders, and there are strict rules regarding their implementation. Parents cannot simply decide which parts of the agreement they will not follow. In addition to the harm done to the children and the working relationship with the other parent, violating the terms of the agreement can result in serious legal consequences.

Enforcing a Parenting Order

To bring violating parents into compliance, Illinois allows parenting order violations to be tried as a civil and a criminal offense. The first two times a parent violates the order, it is considered a minor offense. Even with a minor offense, the violating parent can face changes to the parenting schedule, fines, and even jail time. The third time a parent knowingly violates a parenting order, the violation is a Class A Misdemeanor, which carries larger fines and potential prison time.

Document Violations

Whether prosecuting violations civilly or criminally, the case must be brought before a judge. This means the parent who is bringing the case will need to prove that the violation occurred. Documenting evidence might include text messages, emails, or other communication, but it is important to remember that recording phone calls without the other party’s knowledge is generally illegal in Illinois.​​

Successfully proving a violation occurred also requires showing that the violation was “willful.” The parent bringing the case must prove the violation occurred, but the parent accused of the violation must show that it was not wilful. If the violating parent had a good enough reason for violating the order, then they may not be held in contempt.


IL family lawyerMaking arrangements for your children during a divorce is a difficult process. It requires the understanding that, no matter what disagreements you have with your spouse, your children need both parents and that this will take some level of cooperation from you both. Tensions can run high and parents often struggle to create a mutually acceptable parenting plan.

Mediators and attorneys can help parents understand their options and negotiate a compromise. In this blog, we will discuss some of the things that parents need to include in their parenting plans. Keep in mind that this is not intended to be legal advice. Your attorney is the best source of information for any questions you may have.

Living Arrangements and Schedules

Illinois recognizes that children do best when both parents are involved in their lives. Judges and courts will encourage involvement from both parents whenever possible, so children will often be spending time between two households. When creating a parenting arrangement, parents will need to consider the distance between each other’s homes and the time and expense involved in moving children back and forth. Although spouses may be tempted to live as far away from each other as possible, this can pose significant challenges for facilitating future visits between parents.

Holidays and Vacations

The importance of holidays, and the accompanying rituals and traditions, can make dividing this time between parents very difficult. Nevertheless, it is better to decide on a holiday arrangement now that will work long-term and avoid conflict well into the future. Parents who can be creative and generous have found many different arrangements that work well with the kids and extended family members. Parents may even find they enjoy having a little time to themselves during an otherwise busy and stressful time of year.

Healthcare and Education

Children need health insurance, and their parents’ jobs will often decide which parent will be responsible for providing coverage. However, both parents will need to work together to decide who will take care of general doctor’s visits, make important medical decisions, and take time off in case a child is sick.


IL divorce lawyerDivorced American military families face unique challenges when navigating issues regarding parenting responsibilities and parenting time. Arranging for the care of a child during deployment, ensuring the child can visit with extended family during deployment, and catching up on lost time when the parent returns are all things military parents in Illinois must manage.

Fortunately, Illinois law recognizes these challenges and allows for special accommodations. Here are five facts about military deployment and parenting time in Illinois.

Facts for Deployed Military Parents in Illinois

Military parents can request that courts allow for make-up parenting time before or after deployment. This must be in the best interests of the child, and the parents’ schedules and circumstances must allow for it. The court order will specify who must fulfill certain responsibilities. For example, if divorced parents live in different states, they will have to decide who is responsible for paying to transport the child from one state to the other.

Military parents can also request parenting time be scheduled while they are home on leave. Because service members do not always know when they will get leave, Illinois allows courts to prioritize service member cases so that deployed parents who receive leave on short notice are still able to see their children.

If the military parent is unavailable to attend court sessions during their deployment, no permanent changes to existing parenting time arrangements may be made. This prevents civilian parents from moving out of state with the child or trying to slip in other arrangements that would be unacceptable to the military parent, just because he or she is deployed. If they are able, service members are permitted to join court proceedings by phone or video call.


IL divorce lawyerA divorce can be a very difficult experience for a stay-at-home parent. If you dedicate the majority of your time to caring for your children and the family home, the end of your marriage can upend your entire life. Many stay-at-home parents are understandably concerned about the financial implications of divorce, like their ability to provide for themselves and their children on their own. However, parenting time can also be a major concern, especially when you are used to seeing your children all the time.

Parenting Time Agreements for Stay-At-Home Parents

There are many reasons why a person may choose to be a stay-at-home parent, but chances are, you and your spouse had some sort of agreement during your marriage that it was best for the family for one of you to stay home. Perhaps this was because one parent was better equipped to provide for the children’s regular care, or because the other parent needed to work outside of the home to provide financially for the family. When you are getting the divorce, these reasons may still hold true, and you and your spouse may be able to negotiate a parenting time schedule in which the stay-at-home parent maintains a greater share of parenting time.

One thing, to keep in mind, however, is that a stay-at-home parent will likely eventually need to find a steady source of income, even if the divorce resolution includes spousal support for a time. When negotiating a parenting time agreement, a stay-at-home parent may want to include some time away from the children during which they can further their education or pursue employment.

Court-Ordered Parenting Time

When parents are unable to reach an agreement on a parenting time schedule, the court will make a decision based on the child’s best interests. Illinois law does not expressly favor one parent over the other; for example, a mother does not have a blanket advantage over a father. However, some of the factors that the court will consider do tend to favor stay-at-home parents. The court will try to prioritize an arrangement that interferes with a child’s routine as little as possible, and will also consider prior caretaking arrangements between the parents and the amount of time that each parent has recently spent caring for the child. This does not mean that a working parent will be granted no parenting time, but it is common for a stay-at-home parent to be granted a larger amount.

Contact a Kane County Family Law Attorney

If you are a stay-at-home parent, it is important to consider how you can best protect your interests throughout the divorce process. At Shaw Family Law, P.C., we can advise and represent you in negotiations and disputes over parenting time, spousal maintenance, and the division of marital assets. Call us today at 630-584-5550 for a free consultation with a St. Charles parenting time lawyer.


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