When my wife and I divorced five years ago, we agreed to a morality clause in our decree prohibiting overnight guests of the opposite sex while the minor children were present.
Five years later, only one of my three children is still a minor – my son, who is 9 – and I’m seeing someone I could see potentially asking to move in with me. I don’t want to lose time with my son, but I want to move on with my life.
Is it possible to modify the morality clause?
I am not licensed to practice law in your state. Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of your state and can only provide you with general information concerning morality clauses and parenting time.
Honestly, I would start with your ex-wife. Talk to her about making an agreement, in writing and filed with the court, that the provision regarding overnight guests can now be lifted by mutual agreement.
I assume she won’t agree right off. However, is there something she wants from you – that you might actually agree to? Is there an agreement you can make that gives her what she wants and also gets you what you want? That would be the easiest solution.
It could be very difficult for you to get this provision lifted through a petition to modify in the court. There is an assumption that both of you agreed to put that provision in your decree because you felt it was in the best interests of your children.
Your son is still only nine years old; he is still quite impressionable and most courts are likely to find that overnight guests would only serve to confuse him at his age.
To bring a petition to modify this provision you would have to show that some circumstances have changed (that you couldn’t predict at the time of your divorce) that justify lifting this provision. You might say that the change is that you are now in a serious relationship – your ex-wife would argue that it was predictable at the time of the divorce that at some point in the future you would be in a serious relationship.
On the other hand – I would have to read through your entire decree very carefully, but if your girlfriend moves into your home, is she really an overnight guest? Or does she then become a resident of the home and is no longer a guest and therefore you are not violating the decree?
Especially if you have been seeing this woman for quite some time and if she has met your son and spent time with him. Then you could argue that the type of situation your decree addresses is one where there are different overnight guests of the opposite sex. Your situation is different because you have been seeing her for “x” number of years and she has met your son and she’s no longer just an overnight guest, she is a serious relationship.
Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than general parent time tips, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your area to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they impact your circumstances.