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Morality clause used to move mother's girlfriend out of home

If you get divorced in Collin County, Texas, your divorce decree may include a morality clause that effectively prevents you from having a girlfriend or boyfriend spend the night at your home while your children are in the residence. However, if you marry your new partner, then the morality clause no longer applies, and your kids and your new spouse can stay in the home.

These and same-sex issues were at the heart of a child custody dispute between a mother and father in Collin County. Their divorce in 2011 included a morality clause barring the parents' boyfriends or girlfriends from sleeping over while the former spouses' daughters, 13 and 10, were in the home.

The mother's girlfriend had apparently been living with her, and the father sought an enforcement of the morality clause. A judge agreed with the father and told the mother's girlfriend to move out of the residence within 30 days.

The mother and her partner have indicated their intention of following the court's order, but they believe the ruling will unduly disrupt the family structure and perhaps even harm the children.

Complicating matters is that Texas doesn't recognize same-sex marriages, so the mother and her partner can't simply get married to have the morality clause lifted. In fact, they believe the clause unduly burdens heterosexual and homosexual parents alike, and that the clause is unconstitutional.

In today's changing family law climate, parents need to be aware of their specific rights and responsibilities. Should the mother in this case choose to appeal, it will be interesting to see how other courts deal with the matter. Complex family structures are common in Texas and throughout the country, so parents would be wise to apprise themselves of how the law works for their particular situations.

Source: ABC 13, "Divorce clause keeps lesbians from living together," May 21, 2013

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