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Morality clause in divorce causes issues for same-sex partners

Divorce can be a trying and stressful process for couples, especially when there are children involved. As any Collin County same-sex family lawyer knows, in many circumstances, provisions that are intended to look out for the best interests of the children may end up causing other issues in the process.

A Collin County judge recently ruled that a lesbian couple in Allen can no longer live together due to a morality clause in the divorce papers from a previous marriage. The couple had been living together with the children from the divorced woman's previous marriage. However, the woman's former husband sought enforcement of this morality clause for the benefit of the children, who are aged 10 and 13. The clause in question "prevents an unmarried parent from having a romantic partner" stay overnight while the children are there.

Laws regarding same-sex marriage, child custody and enforcement of a divorce decree vary widely by state. In most instances, in order to enforce a clause in the divorce decree, the party seeking the enforcement will have to petition the court for enforcement. In the same vein, if a party wants to change a provision of the decree, the proper avenue is often through the court. In these scenarios, the judge will make the final determination, taking into account the circumstances, including whether children are involved.

The lesbian couple has agreed to comply with the court order, but has stated that they believe the clause is a violation of their civil rights. This clause is common in Texas divorce decrees, and in other cases involving heterosexual romantic partners, the partners married to get around the clause. However, Texas does not allow same-sex marriage, so that option of avoiding the effects of the clause is not open to them. The couple is undecided as to whether they will appeal the decision.

Source: DallasNews.com, "Lesbian couple in Allen says morality clause in divorce equals discrimination," Valerie Wigglesworth, May 20, 2013

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