It has been six months since you and your former spouse divorced, and though you are committed to being a parent first, you have opened yourself up emotionally to the idea of dating again. You meet a few nice people in social settings, and as the next few months go by, you develop your first serious relationship post-divorce. You could not be happier and want to spend as much time as possible together. But there is one problem: you may have agreed to a morality clause in your final divorce decree.
You may not remember all the ins and outs of the clause … maybe because you really did not think about its impact when you agreed to it as, at the time, you could not imagine ever finding love again. Therefore, it was a moot point. But here you are — things have changed, and now you feel like the requirements of the clause are a massive intrusion into your personal privacy.
What Is a Morality Clause, and How Can It Impact Future Relationships?
A morality clause is a legal provision in a divorce decree that prohibits you from having someone you are dating or in a serious relationship with to stay overnight when you have children. The intent behind the clause is to ensure your children have stability, consistency, and that they remain your priority during their time with you. In short, the clause should protect your children from being exposed to a revolving door of boyfriends or girlfriends.
Many Texas counties have a standing Court order that incorporates a morality clause into their standing orders when a divorce case is filed. But it is rare for a morality clause to find its way into a final order.
Below are a few pros and cons of a morality clause:
- Protect your children’s well-being from being exposed to and confused by their parent’s casual dating relationships post-divorce.
- Maintain some degree of parental control over your child’s environment while in the other parent’s possession.
- Encourage responsible dating behavior.
- Enforcement of the clause will probably put your children in the middle of your relationship with the other parent.
- Will place your children in the place of investigator and cause stress and anxiety due to concerns of “telling on the other parent.”
- There is a chance for future conflicts between parents due to their personal feelings rather than risk of harm to the children.
- There is a chance for a negative emotional impact on the children.
How Is a Morality Clause Enforced?
A morality clause is difficult to enforce because it requires parties to monitor each other’s dating activity and prove that the morality clause has been violated in some way. This might include spying tactics or witness testimony to scrounge up physical evidence of a violation (pictures, videos, testimony, etc.).
If you can agree to change the Court order, you would have to go back to the Court. This can be time-consuming and expensive.
In many cases, divorcing parents need to seriously consider the pros and cons of a morality clause and potentially put their heads together to create alternatives that are not nearly as restrictive or invasive. For example, you could create provisions that establish specific time-period requirements (i.e., a serious relationship for six months) before allowing a romantic partner to spend the night with the children present. This ensures stability and consistency.
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If divorce is the answer, you need an advisor to guide you through each stage and help you deal with the fears that naturally come with that. We work diligently to achieve a result that ensures you receive what you are entitled to as you move forward onto the next stage of your life. The Nelson Law Group brings nearly two decades of family law experience to every case.
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