When divorcing a spouse in Austin, Texas, your divorce agreement may include a morality clause. A morality clause in Texas sets forth certain rules of behavior for divorcing spouses with children.
The intended purpose of a morality clause is admirable. It’s meant to provide stability for the children of a divorce and give them time to adjust to their new family status without the introduction of their parents’ new boyfriends or girlfriends. However, a morality clause may lead to disadvantages you should be aware of.
What Is a Morality Clause in Texas?
A morality clause is a provision that may be included in a divorce agreement in Texas. The specifics of a morality clause can vary on a case-by-case basis. However, the general function of a morality clause is to prevent a spouse from engaging in certain behaviors that may affect their children.
A morality clause can take effect during divorce proceedings. In some Texas counties, a standing order exists that establishes a morality clause while a couple is divorcing. That said, a morality clause will only be relevant when spouses have children together.
Whether a morality clause in Texas remains in effect after the divorce depends on the terms of the final divorce decree. Whether both parents have agreed to a morality clause may influence whether the final decree includes one.
Morality Clause Examples
The following are common examples of requirements a Texas morality clause may enforce on divorcing spouses:
- Not allowing a new romantic partner to spend the night while the children are home
- Not allowing a new romantic partner to be in the family home with the children during “overnight hours”
- Not allowing a new romantic partner to stay overnight until a relationship has continued for a certain length of time
The language of a morality clause should be precise. Lack of clarity can result in difficulties in enforcing morality clauses and in challenges in moving ahead with post-divorce relationships.
Pros of a Morality Clause in Texas
A morality clause may offer certain benefits to a Texas family during a divorce. They include:
- Making divorce easier for children – Seeing a parent go through multiple romantic or sexual partners during or shortly after a divorce may confuse a child. A morality clause may protect children by preserving a degree of stability.
- Easing concerns – One parent may have legitimate concerns about the types of romantic partners the other parent may have in their home. Worrying that a spouse will expose the children to unsavory characters can make divorce even harder. With a morality clause in place, someone going through a divorce in Texas doesn’t have to worry about these matters.
Divorce is already challenging for kids. A morality clause may at least provide for a comfortable home environment during this time.
Cons of a Morality Clause in Texas
A morality clause may not be ideal in all circumstances. Potential disadvantages of a morality clause include:
- Unfairly restricting relationships – A restrictive morality clause could prevent a parent from forming new relationships. The custodial parent may be the one most likely to experience this drawback. Ironically, this could result in a morality clause negatively affecting the children. If a parent can’t form a new relationship, they may struggle to offer the stability they wish to offer their kids. At the very least, a morality clause may result in a parent feeling isolated.
- Morality clauses can cause fights – A morality clause in Texas should make divorce easier for the kids. However, it can have the opposite effect. Sometimes, spouses don’t trust each other to abide by the clause. Or they may not agree regarding its importance or necessity. Disagreements and suspicion of violations may cause arguments and fights. This type of conflict adds extra strain to everyone during a divorce.
- Unintended consequences – If the morality clause is not carefully worded, it could restrict one spouse for an unreasonable amount of time. The morality clause may not be as critical when a child is 16 as it is when they are three.
How a Morality Clause Can Impact Custody
Understanding and abiding by the terms of a morality clause is critical during a Texas divorce. If your divorce agreement includes a morality clause, don’t violate it.
Violating a morality clause during or after divorce proceedings may influence child custody orders. A spouse or their family law attorney could argue that a violation indicates you don’t always act in your children’s best interests. Such an argument might cause the judge to side with your spouse when determining who gets custody.
It’s possible to modify a child support or custody order after divorce in Texas. Even if you have custody after a divorce, violating a morality clause could provoke your spouse to try to change that.
Limitations to Enforcing a Morality Clause
Enforcement is another significant factor to consider when weighing the pros and cons of a morality clause. Enforcing a morality clause is difficult because it requires monitoring a spouse’s behavior. There may be no way to monitor their behavior 24/7 without violating their right to privacy.
A parent can bring the other parent to court if they find they’ve violated the terms of a morality clause. Taking legal action may be necessary to enforce the provision. However, it may be difficult to prove that a violation occurred.
Contact an Austin, Texas, Divorce Lawyer Today
Studying the terms of a morality clause if you plan to include one in your divorce agreement is vital. You must also understand the terms and limits of a morality clause if a court order automatically adds one to a divorce agreement.
Handling these matters during divorce in Texas doesn’t have to be as complex as you may assume. At Smith Family Law, our team in Austin, TX, divorce lawyers will thoroughly discuss such matters with clients when morality clauses affect their cases. Learn more about what we can do for you by contacting us online today or calling us at (512) 277-3166 for a free case review.