Child care is often a contentious issue in Washington family law cases. A parent may object to the child care arrangements made by the other parent, not want a specific person to watch the child, or want the opportunity to take the child when the other parent is unavailable. Sometimes, a parenting plan addresses this issue by including a right of first refusal. The right of first refusal requires that the other parent be given the opportunity to care for the child when the parent with residential time is unavailable. A right of first refusal is generally only used when the parents have been cooperative and shown an ability to co-parent. As a recent case shows, the parenting plan should provide some parameters and details about how the right works.
The child in this case was born after a brief dating relationship between the mother and the father. The mother received no assistance from the father during her pregnancy or the first 15 months of the child’s life.
When a temporary parenting plan was entered in 2009, the court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) noted that some of the father’s behavior was consistent with that shown by perpetrators of domestic violence. The GAL noted there were no allegations of physical aggression toward the mother or child, but they expressed concern that the father’s behavior may have a negative effect on the child’s emotional well-being or even escalate to physical violence.