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Will Texas mother appeal judge's enforcement of morality clause?

In Texas, divorcing parents may encounter what is known as a "morality clause." Individual divorce decrees can feature this clause, which states that unmarried divorced parents cannot have a boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over at night while the kids are present. The clause ceases to apply if the couple gets married.

Readers in Harris County have probably seen recent headlines about a gay couple who were told by a judge that they can't cohabitate because the two daughters of one of the women live in the home. The judge gave the partner who isn't the mother a month to move out of the residence.

The mother of the girls, who are 10 and 13 years old, divorced her former husband in 2011. Their divorce decree includes a morality clause, and the husband took legal steps to enforce it. According to the father, the enforcement is for the children's benefit.

The trouble now for the mother and her girlfriend is that, in the state of Texas, they don't have the option of getting married. Thus the morality clause, unless Texas legislators make a change, will apply ad infinitum, or without limit.

The mother and girlfriend claimed that the enforcement of the clause is federally unconstitutional and that it will disrupt the family and potentially harm the kids. The women, who nonetheless agreed to comply with the court's order, may end up appealing the ruling.

Family laws in Texas and throughout the country are changing, and parents who want the best for their children should know how their families may be affected by state and federal laws. Sometimes it is necessary to go to court over child custody issues, and Harris County parents will want to be aware of the proper strategies for taking legal action.

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

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