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Is there a clause in your divorce decree you don't understand?

A Texas court has enforced a "morality clause" in a divorce decree. This clause is standard in Texas divorces and many other states. It is used to prevent a parent from having "romantic partners" spend the night when the parents have physical custody of the children.

This is a little litigated element of Texas law, but in this case has drawn attention to the case because the mother of the two children is in a same-sex relationship. Because Texas forbids same-sex marriage, she cannot simply marry her partner, so she has been forced to choose between her children and her partner.

From the news reports, it appears the former husband requested the court enforce the clause from her divorce agreement "as a matter of principle." His attorney claims that they would have done the same thing if she had been living with a boyfriend. 

We cannot speculate as to his motive, but what it highlights is no matter how "boilerplate" and seemingly unimportant language in your divorce decree or settlement may appear, it becomes part of a legally binding contract that is enforceable in a court of law.

Should a former spouse, out of spite or for any other reason, decide that you are violating a term of the agreement, they can, in good faith, file a lawsuit to enforce the language. Even if they are found to be incorrect, you have to go to the time, expense and trouble to defend the lawsuit.

It is unclear if she could have obtained a divorce in Texas without the so-called "morality clause," but it should serve as a reminder of the importance of careful drafting of all documents relating to your divorce.

Source: Slate, “Texas Judge Blocks Woman From Living with Lesbian Partner at Ex-Husband’s Request,” Josh Voorhees, May 22, 2013.

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