Parents going through a divorce in Massachusetts have numerous concerns regarding how their children will be affected by the divorce. Each parent may fear that the other parent will be a bad influence when it comes to the children, and want to limit the type of activities the parent can engage in when the parent is caring for the children. This is how the idea of a morality clause comes up in the context of a divorce.
A morality clause in a Massachusetts divorce is usually included in a parenting agreement by consent of the parties. This means that both parents have to agree to include the clause in the parenting order. In some situations, one parent may only agree to the morality clause if the other parent agrees to the same terms as well.
Most morality clauses involve issues of dating and relationships as the divorce is pending. Children whose parents are going through a separation or divorce often experience emotional and psychological difficulties as they try to cope with their changing families. When a parent begins a new relationship with another person before the divorce is even finalized, the children may find it hard to cope with this. Morality clauses are supposed to protect children from certain aspects of their parents' new relationships. Morality clauses do not prohibit the parent from having another relationship, but they can limit the parent's ability to have overnight dates or engage in other behavior within the new relationship.
The consequences of a violation of a morality clause depend on the parenting agreement and the court. The court may decide to limit a parent's time with the children, but it is unlikely that a court would completely cut off a parent from the children based on the violation of a morality clause. A court may give a parent sole parental responsibility if the other parent's violation of a morality clause causes the children direct harm.
Sometimes a court can order apparent to refrain from some action while the parent has the children. For example the court could order a parent to not drink alcohol or use drugs while caring for the children. This is not technically a morality clause, but it can have the same effect. If the parent fails to follow the terms of the order, the court can find the parent in contempt of court and limit the parent's time with the children.
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Negotiating a morality clause can be difficult. Morality clauses can be restrictive and not everybody would readily agree to include them in a parenting plan. Having an experienced family law attorney negotiating for the inclusion of this clause can make a big difference. If you would like to learn more about negotiating a parenting plan, contact an experienced Massachusetts divorce attoney for professional assistance.
Call the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.