It's not going to change your ex.
"Morality Clauses," those provisions which prohibit parents who are getting a divorce from doing something in the future which could possibly expose their children to "immoral" behavior, are standard fare in many parenting plans.
Morality clauses are commonly used to prevent a parent from having his/her new "friend" spend the night while the children are there.
In theory, these types of morality clauses are supposed to protect children. After all, it can't be good for kids to see their parents "sleeping around."
In practice, morality clauses are more about controlling your ex than about protecting your children. They also have a lot of potential down sides that you may not be thinking about when you agree to make them a part of your divorce judgment.
What Are The Problems With Morality Clauses?
1. Life changes, but the clause doesn't.
It is easy to believe when you are going through a divorce that you will never find love again.
Maybe you're right. Maybe you will die a lonely, withered up hermit.
More likely, life will go on and you (and your ex) will start new relationships. Having this type of clause in your divorce judgment can cripple your ability to have a normal relationship until your youngest turns 18.
2. It messes up vacations with your significant other and your kids.
Think you will never want to have your significant other spend the night when your kids are there?
What happens if you want to go on vacation together? You either have to spring for separate hotel rooms, or leave the kids at home.
3. It screws up your ability to blend families.
Blending families is tough in the best of circumstances. If you and your fiancee (who also has kids) never get a chance to hang out together as a family until you are married, you are never going to see the trouble spots that crop up when families blend until after you are married.
Not only does that make blending your families more challenging, but it's also not optimal for your kids either.
4. It can force you into a second marriage before you're ready.
The logistics of maintaining a relationship where you and your fiancee can't sleep in the same house together while the kids are there can get exhausting. It's even worse if you and your fiancee both have kids.
Yet, getting married before you both are ready can only lead to problems down the road.
5. Enforcing a morality clause is difficult.
If you live in Southern states, judges tend to enforce morality clauses more often. If you live anywhere else in the country, judges tend to enforce them less.
Either way, how are you going prove your ex had someone sleep over? Are you going to put your child on the witness stand?
Really?! How is that in your child's best interest?
Putting a morality clause in your divorce judgment may sound like a good idea when you are in the middle of a hotly contested divorce and you don't trust a word your soon-to-be-ex says. As you move past your divorce, though, that morality clause can cause you problems you never dreamed of.
Maybe you think that the sacrifices you might have to make in the future will be worth it as long as your ex has to do the same. Maybe you think that trying to control your ex in the future will somehow insulate your children from your ex's bad behavior or poor judgment.
Here's the truth. Your ex will be the same person no matter what your divorce judgment says.
If your ex would never dream of having a romantic partner spend the night when the children are there, then you don't need a morality clause. If your ex doesn't share your values, or is going to do whatever s/he wants anyway, having a morality clause probably isn't going to make a big difference.
Why not? Because even if the judge does enforce the morality clause, it doesn't change who your ex is or what your ex teaches the children. Your ex can still teach the children that sex outside of marriage is fine.
Your ex can still do other stupid things that the divorce judgment doesn't mention. Your children can (and will) still form a relationship with your ex's new significant other and may even resent you for making that relationship more difficult.
Instead of worrying so much about who your ex sleeps with in the future, you would be better off spending your time nurturing your own relationship with your children, and teaching them what you believe is right and wrong.
Karen Covy is a divorce lawyer, mediator, educator, and the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally. For more divorce tips, go to www.karencovy.com.