Only in Texas: Morality Clauses in Divorce Judgments

23 May

 

In the county of Collins in Texas, it is standard practice to put a morality clause in the final divorce proceedings between the parties.  

 

A judge has ruled that a North Texas lesbian couple can’t live together because of a morality clause in one of the women’s divorce papers.  A morality clause in the state of Texas is also triggered as soon as the divorce papers are filed and continues to remain in effect until the final judgment.   What is a morality clause anyways?  Here is a good example: 

“Moral Environment: Both parents shall provide the children with a proper and moral environment. Neither parent will have an overnight guest of the opposite sex to whom that parent is not related by blood or marriage while the children are present. Neither parent shall consume excessive amounts of alcohol in the presence of the children, nor shall use of illegal drugs be allowed or tolerated in any way.”

Morality Clauses in California do not exist with regard to having overnight guests.  When custody is in dispute, California does provide for provisions with regard to the presence of alcohol and/or illegal drugs.  Now that does not mean that during a dissolution, especially involving children, that it is a good idea to have people coming and going from your bedroom at all times of the day.  In fact, as a family law lawyer, I would strongly caution against this type of behavior as it can be damaging to your case.  Not only could it potentially cast a shadow on your parental obligations and abilities, but if you are found to be cohabitating with an individual of the opposite sex in California there is presumption that your need for spousal support has decreased.  (NOTE: the law has not been updated to reflect this situation involving same-sex couples).  

Apparently in Texas, the clause is common in divorce cases. While in theory it prevents a divorced parent from having a romantic partner spend the night while children are in the home to protect the children, in reality it is a means for one spouse to control the other spouse’s daily activities.  It should be noted that if the new couple marries, they can get out from under the legal provision of the morality clause, but this leaves same-sex couples stuck in the same position they seem to always be in.  ESPECIALLY in Texas —  marriage is not an option for gay couples in Texas, such marriages aren’t recognized.

For more on the story of the Judge who stated that the same-sex couple could no longer reside together read here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/texas-judge-says-lesbian-couple-cant-cohabitate-cites-morality-clause-in-divorce-papers/2013/05/21/295ddd70-c26b-11e2-9642-a56177f1cdf7_story.html

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