Many clients I have represented in a divorce ask about obtaining a “morality clause,” either while their divorce is ongoing or for after their divorce is finalized. In this section, we will discuss what a morality clause is and what it means in practice.
What is a Morality Clause?
At its most basic level, a “morality clause” prohibits a parent from allowing anyone with whom they have a dating or romantic relationship to spend the night when they have the children.
What is the Intent of a Morality Clause?
The intent of a morality clause is to prevent a parent from exposing their children to a “revolving door” of new boyfriends or girlfriends. However, parents often complain they find it burdensome and say it creates problems in forming new relationships.
Standing Order and the Morality Clause
Some counties in Texas have a standing order in place that puts an automatic “morality clause” in place while you are going through a divorce. The counties include:
- Bexar County
- Bell County
- Brazos County
- Collin County
- Denton County
- Erath County
- Fannin County
- Hutchinson County
- Jasper County
- Kaufman County
- Montgomery County
- Newton County
- Sabine County
- San Augustine County
- Stephens County
- Wise County
- Young County
An Example of the Morality Clause in Practice
As you will notice above, Collin County has a standing order with a morality clause. In 2013, Judge Roach Jr. attracted some media attention for enforcing a morality clause against a lesbian couple. The ex-husband took his wife back to court to enforce the morality provision in their divorce decree.
Judge Roach Jr. enforced the provision and gave the ex-wife’s lover 30 days to move out of the house.
Is a Morality Clause in Your Final Divorce Decree Right for You?
Over the years, I have had many clients, or their ex, insist on putting a morality clause in their divorce judgment. The reason always boils down to some variation of: “it’s in the children’s best interest.”
Somethings to consider include:
- A morality clause is generally the most restrictive on the parent who has the children the most.
- What happens 6 months, 1 year, or 5 years after your divorce?
- Is getting married the only way you want to be able to have someone you are in a relationship with be able to spend the night?
- If you really want a morality clause, you might want to consider something less restrictive. Consider enforcing a specific time period requirement for a relationship before spending the night—perhaps 3 months or 6 months before they can spend the night.
Problems with Morality Clauses
One of the problems with a morality clause is that it may sound like a good idea or not a big deal at the time. But after a divorce, your life goes on and you meet someone new. However, the morality clause does not move on; it stays the same.
Once something is in a court order, the only way to change it is by going back to court and asking the court for the change and the court might say no.
Another example of how something in a court order could be a problem is a woman I met a few days ago. She is currently living in Houston and her ex is living in California but their court order is out of New York.
Her husband has now sued her in New York because she moved to Houston. Her problem is she had agreed to a geographic restriction in her decree. She is upset that she is restricted to living in New York when her ex does not live there. I agreed it was stupid but that was something she agreed to in her order and the only way to change it was through the court.
A good way to think about court orders is that the order is the order until a judge changes it. If you violate the order, you very well may get in trouble.
Most Judges do not want to know who you or your ex is sleeping with. After a divorce, it is highly unlikely they would add a morality clause to your divorce decree unless you agree to one.
However, if you agree to a morality clause in your divorce decree, judges do not like their orders being ignored. Do not expect to get any sympathy from the judge when you find out later that the thing you agreed to is interfering with your life.
Do Morality Clause Work?
One of the questions you should ask before considering adding a morality clause to your Final Divorce Decree is will it work? The answer, as with many questions legal questions, is it depends.
It depends on:
- Where you live
- What judge you find yourself in front of. Some judges will enforce these provisions. Others will not.
- A morality clause may work when parents respect and follow the order, either out of respect for the law or fear of contempt.
They also work when a judge decides to uphold the morality clause. As we saw in the example above, at least one Texas judge has upheld a morality clause.
If a judge does hold that you are not allowed to have a romantic partner spend the night unless you get married, your choices are pretty simple. You get married, you risk losing your kids, or you sleep alone. Those are your only choices.
I have also been in front of judges who thought my client violating the morality clause was not a big deal.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.