A Virginia Circuit Court judge recently ruled that a provision in the divorce between a couple with children was illegal and unenforceable.
The couple’s divorce agreement included a clause that each parent was “to exercise great care prior to introducing” any new romantic partners to their children.
What’s the problem with a rule like that?
A lot of modern parenting agreements contain similar clauses, so this ruling may shake things up a bit. In essence, the court saw numerous problems with the agreement. Among them:
- The clause was declared “unduly vague” and would require the court to limit the way that one of the parents might choose to communicate and interact with their child.
- The clause could be interpreted as limiting the associations and speech of whichever parent ran afoul of it, without any prior reason or concerns about their behavior in the past.
- The language of the clause was so broad and vague that it couldn’t be reasonably interpreted, which makes it unenforceable.
After all, what one parent may consider “great care” the other may decide is reckless and dangerous. That would lead to unnecessary legal disputes that the court isn’t willing to navigate.
Generally speaking, the court affirmed the right of parents to enter into restrictive agreements – and their duty to be bound by them – as part of their divorce. However, the language of the agreement has to be plain and clear. That takes a little more definition than the clause in question.
It’s normal for parents to feel protective over their children and want the best for them, and divorcing parents are often at odds about what that might mean. A good custody agreement aims to make sure that everyone’s needs are met in the best possible way – and that takes experienced legal guidance.