Including A “Morality Clause” In A Parenting Plan
After a divorce, one parent may not have a say in the people the other parents introduces to the children, or what activities the parent engages in around the children. This may become a major concern especially if the children are young. For this reason, the parents may want to include language in the parenting plan aimed at restricting each other from engaging in certain action around the children.
Florida law permits courts to consider the moral fitness of parents when approving a parenting plan that establishes or modifies parental responsibility and a time-sharing schedule. The definition of moral fitness is not included in the statute and may be decided on a case by case basis. For example, Florida courts may consider a parent’s sexual conduct under an analysis of the parent’s moral fitness, only if such conduct affects the welfare of the child.
When parents ask for restrictions on each other’s actions, they are sometimes said to be asking for a morality clause. The kinds of actions a morality clause can address include not introducing children to significant others until a certain time has passed, prohibiting certain kinds of overnight guest when the parent has the children, abstaining from alcohol or drug use when the parent is supposed to be caring for the children, and other such actions that have to do with a parent’s behavior.
Morality clauses and restrictions on behavior cannot be initiated by a court. The parties to the divorce or child custody case have to present an agreement containing a morality clause to the court, which the court can then approve or reject. If the parties can agree to some of the restrictions noted above, then a court is likely to approve of them as part of the parenting plan. However, if the morality clause is too restrictive, and the court finds that the agreement is otherwise unconscionable, the court in not likely to accept the agreement.
Parents should not agree to a morality clause because they think that refusal will make them look like bad parents. Similarly, agreeing to refrain from certain activities does not mean that the parent is confessing to bad behavior. There may be legitimate reasons for a morality clause.
Before agreeing to a morality clause, each parent should have an attorney look at the language of the morality clause in order to ensure that the parents understand the kinds of restrictions they are agreeing to. Failure by one parent to abide by the morality clause can give the other parent cause to seek a modification of the parenting plan, affecting the amount of parental time the parent in breach of the morality clause is granted.
Reach Out to Us for Help
Agreeing to a morality clause can have serious consequences. Therefore, before you agree to a parenting plan that includes a morality clause, you should discuss this and other issues that affect your parental time with your children with an experienced child custody attorney. For more information on how you can work out a parenting plan with your spouse as you are going through a divorce, contact our experienced child custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White in Boca Raton, Florida.