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Massachusetts couples need to examine effects of divorce clauses

It’s not surprising that someone who has undergone a divorce has a story of how contentious it was. There is a lot of emotion and heartache that goes into the process that is hard to put aside. When children are involved, issues are even more complicated, with the potential of many proceedings that stretch out for several years. Massachusetts couples can learn about the importance of signing a divorce decree with a clause that may have a large impact on future decisions based on the experience of a same-sex couple in a different state.

In 2011, a man and a woman with two children sought a divorce. In the county in which they were divorcing, a morality clause is automatically kicked into play during divorce proceedings that prohibits a parent from having a romantic partner stay overnight while his or her children are in the house. For this particular couple, the clause was also included in the final divorce decree. If the parent remarries, the clause does not apply.

The problem for the former wife in this situation is that she is now in a same-sex relationship. While the couple would like to marry, same-sex marriage is not currently legal in the state in which they live. A judge has recently ruled that the mother’s partner must move out of their home in accordance with the clause. While the lawyer for the father argues that the judge was simply enforcing the clause both former spouses agreed to, the same-sex couple argue that the clause infringes on their constitutional rights and are considering an appeal.

From this case, Massachusetts couples should learn the importance of considering the long lasting repercussions of what might be included in a divorce decree. While no one can tell the future, it’s important that all ramifications be considered. For example, what if a couple in a long-term, committed relationship simply decide they do not want to marry again after already going through a difficult divorce? Perhaps the woman in this situation can revisit the issue and have their agreement modified.

Source: The Washington Post, “Texas judge says lesbian couple can’t cohabitate, cites morality clause in divorce papers,” May 21, 2013

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