Posted on April 16, 2022

Morality Clauses In An Illinois Divorce

Divorce is often the result of a breakdown in trust between a married couple. When the breakdown in trust is due to a new relationship, the other party can be expected to be extremely apprehensive about exposing new boyfriends/girlfriends to the children.

In an Illinois divorce or parentage action, a party may request a “morality clause” which will require the parties to wait a specified introduce new boyfriends or girlfriends to a child. Morality clauses related to new romantic partners are also known as a “paramour clause.”

A morality clause may also forbid overnight guests of the opposite from being present during parenting time. An overnight guest morality clause will usually expire upon certifying that the couple has been dating for a certain amount of time, they are engaged or (this is extreme) married.

Morality clauses can contain any kind of restriction on something that would otherwise be permitted: forbidding alcohol, particular religious observances, exposure to politics or pop culture.

How Do You Include A Morality Clause In Your Illinois Divorce Decree?

Morality clauses can only be entered by agreement in an Illinois divorce.

The morality clause will be included in the parties’ Parenting Plan (also known as an Allocation of Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities)

“[T]he parents may agree upon and submit a parenting plan at any time after the commencement of a proceeding until prior to the entry of a judgment of dissolution of marriage.” 750 ILCS 5/602.10(d)

While the parent(s) may feel strongly about the morality clause in their parenting plan…the court may disagree with the parents particular brand of morality.

“If the court does not approve the parenting plan, the court shall make express findings of the reason or reasons for its refusal to approve the plan. The court, on its own motion, may conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the parenting plan is in the child’s best interests.” 750 ILCS 5/602.10(d)

Why Won’t An Illinois Court Order A Morality Clause?

Illinois divorce law simply does not account for “immoral” behavior if that behavior does not have an identifiable effect on children.

Illinois divorce judges “shall divide the marital property without regard to marital misconduct in just proportions” 750 ILCS 5/503(d)(emphasis mine)

“[T]he court may grant a maintenance award for either spouse in amounts and for periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and the maintenance may be paid from the income or property of the other spouse.” 750 ILCS 5/504(a)(emphasis mine)

Illinois child support is a mathematical calculation “based upon the parents’ combined net income estimated to have been allocated for the support of the child if the parents and child were living in an intact household.” 750 ILCS 5/501(a)(1)(D)

Adultery (or any kind of relationship) between two adults will not affect either adult’s parenting relationship with their child.

“In allocating parenting time, the court shall not consider conduct of a parent that does not affect that parent’s relationship to the child.” 750 ILCS 5/602.7(c)

“Visitation should not be used to penalize or reward parents for their conduct.” In re Marriage of Mitchell, 745 NE 2d 167 – Ill: Appellate Court, 2nd Dist. 2001

Again, morality clauses can only be included by agreement because an Illinois court has no jurisdiction to order morality clauses for the above reasons.

Enforcing A Morality Clause In An Illinois Divorce Action

Morality clauses included in Illinois divorce orders will be enforced!

“Any judgment entered within this State may be enforced…in the judicial circuit wherein such judgment was entered” 750 ILCS 5/511(a)

The Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage will incorporate the Agreed Allocation Of Parenting Time and Parental Decision-Making. That agreement is enforceable.

“Terms of the agreement set forth in the judgment are enforceable by all remedies available for enforcement of a judgment, including contempt, and are enforceable as contract terms.” 750 ILCS 5/504(e)

In addition to an Illinois court ordering that the morality clause be followed as written, a court may also find the violator in contempt of court.

“Civil contempt is a sanction or penalty designed to compel future compliance with a court order.” Felzak v. Hruby, 226 Ill. 2d 382, 391, 876 N.E.2d 650, 657 (2007)

After a finding of contempt, an Illinois court has great power to enforce its orders. A court can even imprison a parent for ongoing violations of a divorce decree’s morality clause.

A morality clause violator is “imprisoned only until they comply with the orders of the court, and this they may do at any time. They carry the keys of their prison in their own pockets.” In re Nevitt, 117 F. 448, 460 (8th Cir. 1902)

Finally, a finding of a violation of a morality clause by an Illinois court will also result in an order granting the other party’s attorney’s fees to reimburse them for the expenses of having to enforce the agreement.

“In every proceeding for the enforcement of an order or judgment when the court finds that the failure to comply with the order or judgment was without compelling cause or justification, the court shall order the party against whom the proceeding is brought to pay promptly the costs and reasonable attorney’s fees of the prevailing party.” 750 ILCS 508(b).

Do not violate a morality clause (no matter how ridiculous it is). Instead, petition the court to remove the morality clause from your parenting plan.

How Can You Undo A Morality Clause In An Illinois Divorce?

During the stress of the divorce process, it is easy to find yourself agreeing to things you don’t have to agree with…like morality clauses.

Not to worry, virtually all morality clauses can be revoked as morality clauses should be exclusively related to parenting time issues…which are always modifiable.

“Parenting time may be modified at any time, without a showing of serious endangerment, upon a showing of changed circumstances that necessitates modification to serve the best interests of the child.” 750 ILCS 5/610.5(a)

You will need to show the court that some circumstance has changed in your lives that allows for the removal of the morality clause.

“[T]he court shall modify a parenting plan or allocation judgment when necessary to serve the child’s best interests if the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that on the basis of facts that have arisen since the entry of the existing parenting plan or allocation judgment or were not anticipated therein, a substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or of either parent and that a modification is necessary to serve the child’s best interests.” 750 ILCS 5/610.5(c)

The court, initially, will be hesitant to modify a morality clause because the parties must have agreed to it and the original court must have approved it for a good reason.

“[Illinois law] evinces a desire to maintain continuity in parenting plans, which is a policy this court has long favored.” O’Hare, 2017 IL App (4th) 170091

Don’t let this stop you from asking for a morality clause to be removed. Courts don’t like morality clauses and just need a reason to remove the morality clause…and let you live your life.

“There is no precise formula for a substantial change in circumstances.” In re Marriage of Solecki, 2020 IL App (2d) 190381

A party subject to a morality clause must show that the removal of the morality clause is in the best interests of the child.

In reality, an Illinois court probably cannot tell you who you can and cannot be with.

“The people have the right to assemble in a peaceable manner” Ill. Const. Art. 1. Sec. 5

If you are insisting on including a morality clause in your Illinois divorce documents, be aware that they are frowned upon and easily removed. However, until a morality clause is removed, they are as enforceable as any other clause in your divorce decree.

To learn more about morality/paramour clauses in an Illinois divorce, contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Illinois divorce attorney.

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Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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