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Morality Injunctions and Family Law

Family law deals with issues related with the family unit. This includes divorce and custody issues. In recent years, family law attorneys have seen an increase in the use and inclusion of morality injunctions.

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What Is a Morality Injunction?

A morality injunction is a court order that prohibits a party from doing something that may be morally or ethically wrong. The most common examples of morality injunctions include prohibiting a party from introducing a paramour (boyfriend or girlfriend) to the child or permitting a paramour from spending the night when the child is in the residence.

How Do I Get a Morality Injunction?

Morality injunctions are often sought by one party against the other. The party who wants to put the morality injunction in place must show that the behavior he or she wants to prohibit is in the child’s best interest.

To obtain a morality injunction, you must request the injunction in Court. You may do this through a Temporary Restraining Order, a Temporary Orders Hearing or at Final Trial. A party can request a morality injunction, but so can a court appointed representative like an Amicus Attorney or Attorney Ad Litem. Regardless of who requests the morality injunction, the party or representative must put on evidence that the morality injunction is in the child’s best interest using the best interest factors.

We have often seen a trend of the inclusion of morality injunctions in courts that have Standing Orders. Standing Orders are enacted by a particular court or county to lay the rules for the litigation and provide parties with behaviors that they are prohibited from doing. Fort Bend County, Waller County, and Montgomery County have Standing Orders. However, Harris County does not.

In cases that involve children, the most common Standing Order prohibits a party from having an unrelated adult in the residence with the child between the hours of 10:00pm and 8:00 am. This prevents a party from having an overnight slumber party with their paramour and the child.

Another way to obtain a morality injunction is by agreement. If two parties agree to the morality injunction, they can do so without a Court order.

What Kinds of Morality Injunctions Are There?

One injunction that attorneys often get requests for are for a parent to not introduce a child to a party’s paramour or to not have a party’s paramour spend the night with the child. If you are in the middle of a divorce case, a Judge may issue this injunction as to not confuse the child. However, if you are in a modification case and the parents of the child have been divorced for years, it is not common for a Court to issue an injunction prohibiting this behavior.

Sometimes we see parties asking that the morality injunction to extend past the date of their divorce. This not often awarded. When parties officially divorce, they are free to go about their life. If they want to date and have relationships, they are free to do so. A Judge likely will not extend the Morality Injunction past the date of divorce unless it is in the child’s best interest. Most of the time, the injunction ends at the date of the divorce.

A Morality Injunction Was Awarded. What’s Next?

A morality injunction can be issued for both parties or just one party. In counties that have Standing Orders, the injunction will apply to both parties. It is important to read the Court’s order to know what it says and how it applies to you.

If a morality injunction is in place, you must comply with the terms of the injunction. Failure to do so can result in an Enforcement action being brought against you. If an Enforcement action is brought against you and the Court finds that you violated the injunction, the penalty could be a fines/fees, jail time, or paying the other party’s attorney’s fees.

Morality injunctions can be modified or terminated by a Court order. To do modify or terminate the injunction, the circumstances surrounding the injunction must have changed. For example, if a party was ordered to not introduce their boyfriend/girlfriend to the child, but now has a fiancé, it may be impracticable to never have the child meet the fiancé. It should be noted, however, that Standing Orders cannot be modified or terminated unless there is an agreement between the two parties. If you have a morality injunction you wish to change or terminate, you will want to contact an attorney.

Controversy Surrounding Morality Injunctions

Despite their common use in the family law system, morality injunctions can be quite controversial.  Some individuals see these injunctions as an infringement on their individual freedom and civil liberties. Morality injunctions are subjective to an individual’s moral or ethical standards. What may be morally wrong to one person, may be different from the Judge. The Court’s goal is to do what is in the best interest of the child. As discussed in previous articles, what a Court and a parent believes are in the child’s best interest oftentimes differ.

To learn more about morality injunctions and how they can impact your case, contact Hunt Law Firm to discuss your unique situation.

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