Enforcement of Morality Clause: A Frequent Issue in Texas Divorces Involving Children

You are divorced and have your decree issued by a judge in Dallas, Kaufman, or a contiguous county and you thought you would never have to deal with your ex ever again, besides the occasional conversation about your child(ren). You want as little to do with them as possible and you’re happy just knowing that your child(ren) have a stable routine. But, imagine this scenario:

Your child Little Johnny or Mary comes home after visitation with their mother/father and reports that your ex-spouse has a new live-in boyfriend/girlfriend and he/she is over there all the time while the kids are there and maybe even wants the children to call them “Mom” or “Dad.” You are angered by this information because you do not want a strange adult near your children, let alone in the same house with them while they are staying with your ex. You do not want to send your children back to their mother/father’s house while this stranger is there also. You are wondering what your legal rights are from this point. You want to protect your child(ren) and you want to ensure that they do not incur any psychological issues as a result of interaction with this person. So, you call your attorney at Guest & Gray and ask “What can I do to keep this person away from my kids while they’re visiting their mother/father?”

Our response is to immediately look to see if your divorce decree includes a “Morality Clause.” Typically, you will find that your ex agreed to not have any unrelated adult with whom they have a dating or intimate relationship stay in the same residence while he/she is in possession of your child(ren) within a certain time frame (usually indicating no overnight stays with that person).

If the final divorce decree does contain this clause, there are a few options that you have to ensure that your ex complies with what the judge orders. After all, you follow the orders, why doesn’t your ex have to do the same? The judge’s orders were entered for several reasons, but one of the main issues a judge considers when determining custody and possession is the “child’s best interest.”

To ensure that your child(ren) are safe and that your ex follows the judge’s orders, you can ask your attorney to file a motion for enforcement. This asks the judge to take notice of your ex’s non-cooperation and order your ex to not have that person as an overnight visitor anymore. Basically, do what the morality clause says.

Also, if you are unsure as to what person this morality clause applies to, you can ask your attorney to file a motion for clarification asking the judge to spell out what the clause means exactly so that both parties of the divorce are clear as to who cannot be in the residence within a certain period of time when the children are there.

That is the beauty of the morality clause–to ensure that your ex doesn’t have a rendezvous with their new boyfriend/girlfriend while they are in possession of your children. If you have one, seek to do either options discussed above.

Finally, if you are seeking a divorce, ask your attorney to make sure this clause is inserted into your decree.