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When parties get divorced, their marital separation agreements often have restrictions on introducing minor children to new romantic partners.
In Powell v. Knoepfler-Powell, Michael Powell and Melanie Knoepfler-Powell entered into a marital settlement agreement during divorce proceedings. The agreement included a provision that the parties are to exercise “great care prior to introducing” their “boyfriends or girlfriends with whom they may have a romantic relationship” to their child. During a proceeding to modify the parties’ child custody and support order, the court was tasked with determining whether this provision was enforceable.
The court found that the provision “great care prior to introducing” their romantic “boyfriends or girlfriends” to their child suggests an uncertain degree of selectivity with whom the parties may associate in the presence of the child. The court noted that “great care” to one parent may mean “less care” to another.
Since the provision is not defined more clearly, each party is essentially “arbitrarily” left to interpret the standard for themselves. The court ultimately found that the restriction “is hopelessly vague, unenforceable and shall not be included in the Court’s revised custodial order.”
The court also held that the provision is void as against public policy, because it asks the court “to unreasonably limit the freedom of association and speech of the parties interacting with their child into and throughout her adulthood.”
The court did not discuss what changes, if any, would have made the provision enforceable, so there isn’t a clear-cut rule to take away informing those who would like similar provisions. However, similarly vague provisions are likely to also be unenforceable. Parents interested in using similar provisions should aim to include a more defined standard, such as a time frame before the introduction or a requirement that the romantic partner must be first introduced to the other parent.
Led by Joanna Foard, General Counsel, P.C.’s family / divorce practice can help you. Custody and related matters can be complex and because of their importance, it is beneficial to consult with an attorney experienced in family law matters. Our family law attorneys are well versed in custody and visitation matters, as well as drafting and litigating property settlement agreements and can help you navigate the process and protect your rights. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 703-991-7973 and see how we can help you.