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Exploring the effect of morality clauses on child custody cases

This day and age, the idea of being in a committed relationship outside of wedlock does not carry the same stigma it once did for many. In fact, many people that have been married, and divorced, before consciously choose to never marry again. Similarly, thousands of couples in Utah and throughout the country could not legally wed if they wanted to. And while more and more same-sex and heterosexual couples alike are embracing the option of having families without being married, some antiquated family law policies threaten child custody rights.

Paramour and/or morality clauses written into child custody agreements may prohibit parents from having relationships outside of marriage. Likewise, these types of addendums can specify that partners or visitors of the opposite are not allowed to live in the same household as one’s children. And as surprising as it might seem, some family law courts have enforced the details of morality clauses by denying custody rights some parents recently.  

Some argue that morality clauses continue to be used by courts to effectively discriminate against gay and lesbian parents. In the past, such measures were used to reinforce prejudice against the LGBT community, often denying custody to parents on the grounds that their lifestyle may be detrimental to their kids. Though, some parents have fortunately been able to prove that their same-sex partners contribute to a healthy home environment.

And while LGBT parents may be particularly vulnerable to unfair judgment through morality clauses, some unmarried straight mothers are being singled out as well. One bizarre example involves an appeals court that actually upheld a ruling that even if it doesn’t affect a child, a parent’s sexual relationship may be relevant in determining custody rights.

Any parent should seek legal counsel if a morality clause threatens to keep them from their kids.


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