When a couple finalizes their divorce, the terms of their settlement are enforced by the state court system. This means that the parties involved in the split are legally obligated to abide by the terms of the property division, child custody and any other arrangements laid out by their split. A recent family law ruling in Texas may inspire couples in Austin to carefully examine the terms of their divorce.
A family law judge ruled that a woman couldn’t live in the same house as her same-sex partner while maintaining custody of her children because of a “morality clause” included in the divorce settlement. This legal provision — which is included in many Texas divorces — doesn’t allow divorced parents to have their unmarried partners spend the night in the home with children.
In 2011, the woman in this case and her ex-husband finalized their divorce. Since that time, the woman entered into a relationship with a woman, and the two have a home together. The ex-husband filed a claim in court to enforce the morality clause, citing the welfare of his children.
This is a case where the two women living together may wish to get married, but aren’t legally allowed to do so in Texas. As such, they plan to appeal the ruling, since the mother’s new partner was forced to leave her home within a matter of weeks.
Although this particular case involves a same-sex couple, the morality clause can apply to all divorced people who enter into a new relationship. If a person doesn’t know that their divorce includes a morality clause, then they may unknowingly disrupt their child custody situation.
An unexpected change in living or custody arrangements may not be in a child’s best interests, so it’s important to make sure the critical aspects of a divorce settlement are clearly understood by both spouses.
Source: Associated Press, “Divorce clause keeps lesbians from living together,” May 21, 2013