The Paramour Clause

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Doesn’t “The Paramour Clause” sound like the title of a sexy John Grisham novel? Unfortunately, it is nothing as exciting as a best selling thriller.

A Paramour clause is part of a divorce agreement that prohibits parents from having romantic activities while they are parenting their children.  Specifically, no overnight guests in front of the children.

OTHER NAMES

I used the term Paramour Clause in the title because the word sounds sexy. In my agreement draft it is under the Propriety section, but also could be called a Moral clause. Cohabitation clauses are similar too.

[Disclaimer: I'm not an attorney. I don't even play one on TV. So this is coming from the perspective of an ordinary guy going through divorce and nothing more.] 

From a layman’s perspective, the best name would be the “no sleepover” clause. But Paramour sounds sexier, so I am going to continue to use that term in this post.

It has become obvious that a paramour clause is extremely important to my wife, and she is willing to go to the mat fighting to keep it.

THE PRINCIPLE 

My wife and I are in agreement on the fundamental principle behind the clause. Namely, we don’t want our children feeling uncomfortable in their own houses. The divorce is creepy enough for them already without involving strange people who sleep in the same bed with Mommy or Daddy.

I am very open to the principle behind a paramour clause. In fact, I want one too. I am not naive. I know my wife could have an intense rebound relationship, and her current rigid moral standards would become compromised once she falls for the next man. I don’t really want that guy having breakfast with my kids regularly, so I want a paramour clause too.

In fact, I’ve read a few blog posts that have made me think having a paramour clause is a good idea. I don’t want to sound overly judgmental, as I am very socially tolerant of other people’s unique moral values and life choices, but I do not want to put my kids in the middle of situations that I’ve read about on other blogs.

The image of my children having breakfast with an adult they hardly know, that just slept with their parent, creeps me out. I don’t want my kids to be put in that situation. Therefore, like my wife, I am all for the concept of a paramour clause.

HER PREFERRED CLAUSE

Here is the way my wife wants it to read:

Neither party shall permit the children to remain overnight in the presence of any adult of the opposite sex to whom they are not related by blood or marriage. This provision is not intended to interfere with the children’s relationships, but rather is designed to prevent the children’s exposure to either parent’s romantic relationships.

I am in agreement with the concept of a paramour clause, but this wording is too restrictive. It is not well thought out, and I consider it sloppy work from her attorney.

Seeing language like this makes me wish I was an attorney. I’m not implying wording like this isn’t commonly found. In fact, I’m certain it is found in many divorce agreements. But popular or not, this is still half-assed, sloppy work to me.

PROBLEM SCENARIOS

I could not begin to list all the possible scenarios that could arise that would cause us to break a restrictive clause such as this.

Remember, this clause will still be in effect when my oldest is out of college because my youngest will be under the age of 19. My oldest could easily be married, and my youngest not willing to go anywhere without leaving his girlfriend’s side. Yet I would not be able to sleep in the same building with a potential girlfriend.

That’s a problem.

Here are a sampling of scenarios that come to mind that would break the clause:

  • If my kids go a sleepover at a friend’s house, that could arguably break the clause since I would have permitted them to sleep in the presence of an adult of the opposite sex with whom the are not related. Although it would be hard to argue that I broke the intent of the clause, nevertheless, the clause is worded sloppily enough that a sleepover could be called into question should my wife get pissy and her attorney be in the mood to rack up some billable hours.
  • If a female guest of the opposite sex sleeps in the guest room, with no romantic involvement, this would break the clause. All of these would break the clause:
    • If my mother spends the night with one of her girl friends
    • If my grown daughter visits with a friend from college,
    • If I have a party and someone sleeps on the sofa due to inclement weather, car trouble, or having had too much to drink
  • Traveling with a girlfriend would become an issue:
    • Visiting out of town family will require my girlfriend to get a hotel room, as she cannot sleep in the same house with me and my children.
    • Camping is a violation
    • Renting a vacation house
  • What if my next girlfriend has a killer lake house, beach house or family farm!?

I could list a thousand realistic “what if” scenarios where this clause would be broken, yet are not morally wrong, harmful or uncomfortable to my children.

This clause, as worded, is a far cry from merely preventing cohabitation out of wedlock.

FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES

In addition to the practical “what if” scenarios listed above, there is a larger fundamental issue here.

Having had much time to reflect on the first half of my life, I have two ideas about relationships that have stuck in my head.

  1. Honeymoon Phase – People cannot make a sound decisions about long term compatibly while enthralled in the emotional high of the “honeymoon” phase of a relationship. This period generally last about two years. Therefore, I do not want to consider marriage again until I have dated someone at least two years.
  2. Try Before you Buy –  Cars should be test driven before they are bought. Likewise, with marriages, it is only prudent to see if you are compatible as roommates before tying the knot.  [Note: As the father of a daughter, I have conflicting feelings on this.]

The restrictive paramour clause interferes with these two ideas. It is so restrictive, it will force us to rush the idea of marriage. It’s inconvenient restrictions creates incentives to get married sooner rather than later. This is not in keeping with my thoughts on the Honeymoon Phase. This applies to my wife also, as I am not wild about the idea of her jumping into another marriage too soon because her new boyfriend will be inconvenienced by our paramour clause.

I do my best to let my children grow into their own beliefs and moral values. I have influence, but not control over the persons they become. Today, I would never live with a woman out of wedlock while I am still a role model for my children. But what will the environment be years from now? My grown/almost grown kids could be shacking with the significant others in my own house, while I am prevented from doing so. That is a ridiculous possibility!

The restrictive clause proposed by my wife and her closed minded attorney are not in agreement with fundamental tenants of how I want my next long term relationship to evolve.

MY REVISION

This is the revision I proposed that is in keeping with the fundamental principles of what our kids need now, yet leaves flexibility for the future.

Both parents shall provide the children with a proper and moral environment. Neither party shall have an intimate relationship with an overnight guest while a minor child is present in the home. This provision is not intended to interfere with the children’s relationships, but rather is designed to limit children’s exposure to romantic relationships, and to ensure the children feel safe and comfortable in each parents’ homes.

As I told my wife on the phone, I don’t care if we change the wording to say we can’t sleep in the same bed with another adult. But her original wording is too restrictive.

THEIR RESPONSE

I received major push-back on my proposed revision.

It is now clear that my wife wants to retain control of how much contact my children can have with any future girlfriends I may have. With her clause, she will have de facto veto authority over her children’s exposure to future love interests of mine.

This is ridiculous! But attorneys would love nothing more than to rack up billable hours while we battle back and forth over this minutia. [Ambulance chasing bastards...]

In the coming days I am going to write about seemingly unrelated events that will have a huge impact on the final outcome of these negotiations.

19 thoughts on “The Paramour Clause

  1. Though your entry is about you and your divorce, please take my comment to be nothing more than a general observation: as a child that was old enough to remember her parents getting divorced.

    I do not know how old or young your children are and can agree that they should be made as comfortable as possible with their new homes and situation, though divorced parents no longer holds the social stigma it once did, children are often able to find some solace with friends of a similar experience but each family brings their own particular circumstance to the divorce; no two are the same.

    It is rare that a judge enforces this clause in common divorce proceedings, so you need not fight the wording if you don’t want too – this clause seems to have a historical purpose “These clauses began in the Southern states where cohabitation by unmarried couples was illegal. Thus, it made sense to include the language in the Marital Settlement Agreement” have you read on the ordeal to prove violations of this clause? I mean having this agreement does not guarantee either of you will not have someone over (the example they use in front of a judge to change custody and visitation seems to be highly unlikely) does your lawyer agree to the use of this clause?

    I like that you included the word of ‘minor’ child, because certainly that is what it at issue here – a minor perhaps being exposed to something that the other parent is not a party too. I suppose what is at odds here for me is that two people whom are parents, for whatever reason can no longer communicate without mediation are perhaps overlooking that it is impossible to dictate morals to the now ex partnership. I think adults now need to start to accept and realize that, not all but some new parenting techniques will emerge as they are single parents; it is unrealistic to think that things can be like they were but now just in two homes. You and your soon to be ex wife are about to embark on a new individualism that is no longer subject to each other. This can be a positive thing for children.

    The only problem I have with such clauses is that one must define morals and agree, one must define intimate relationship and agree – and though the child is a minor as you said it is impossible for you both to come to all ‘what if’ scenarios. I would imagine that adults dictating to each other ‘how its going to be’ is how the end of the relationship came about.

    I know I know, in a perfect world…. There are the way we want things to be and then there are the way things are. I was 16 the first time my parents divorced (yeah they got married to each other a second time) and I have to say they were pretty ignorant towards my brother and I – as if we had no clue what goes on behind closed doors. The relationship was cool for a while before they split, as if we didn’t notice, and we can hear a lot before walking into a room. Two seemingly functional people became dysfunctional and they are what made it hard for my brother and me. Kids are smart and quick to adapt, resilient but look to the adults for guidance.

    This clause presupposes that you are both incapable of using your heads – and in fact contributes to an already dysfunctional situation by actually allowing either party to believe they have a say, and in some way are still in control of one another and that of their children. I am certain it’s new found popularity in use came out of legal concern and responsibility but has been perverted beyond measure: as you said billing time and costs also it is something to argue over.

    I know you cant talk to your wife about this and come to terms without the lawyer but might I suggest something? Perhaps the clause should include something like this or you both create new language and skip the clause: both parents agree to meet and discuss special circumstances should they arise while a child remains a minor.

    And then I would make certain that this clause is no longer applicable after the youngest is no longer a minor (why I like that you included it) but with legal documents, hurt feelings, and times of transitions it is hard to predict the future – as much as lawyers want too – what is going on today and what you sign tomorrow can and might impact relationships in the future.

    Sorry I went on so long, I always hated family law and I do wish you all the best of luck.

    • Thank you for the very thoughtful response! The clause is in effect until the children are 19.

      You are correct that a practical limitation is that, even if I do technically break the clause, my wife probably will not take legal action. For example, if my mother comes to town to shop with a girlfriend of her’s, I doubt my wife would file a complaint.

      You are also right that even if she did, it would be a waste of time and money because she could not prove that it was harmful to the children.

      However, I think it is also quite likely that I will be traveling one day and want a new GF and my children to both go on the trip. For example, suppose I rent a vacation house with room for everyone, including GFs, pets, and children, and everyone has their own separate bedrooms. Would that violate the clause?

      Yes. That isn’t even a grey area. A GF sleeping under the same roof as my children a no-no. As you will learn in upcoming posts, this exact scenario was discussed and the attorneys say that is clearly prohibited.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful response!

  2. “It is rare that a judge enforces this clause in common divorce proceedings” ~while this is true, it doesn’t negate the fact that if his ex decides she wants to be a pain in the ass, she can still initiate an action against him. While a judge may end up throwing out the complaint, it will nonetheless cost him money in Court costs, attorney’s fees, missed work, etc. He’s smart to be thinking about all of the potential outcomes of his divorce as well as the documents being drafted between the two parties.

  3. Doesn’t “The Paramour Clause” sound like the title of a sexy John Grisham novel?~ Haha, Grisham does erotica, lol. :)

  4. A shame that such a clause is even necessary, one would hope that divorcing parents would exercise some discretion and common sense in respecting the wishes of the child(ren) in the first place. Of course, eventually one or both of you is going to meet somebody else and in all likelihood they will respect the boundaries of the child in not taking things too quickly and ensuring and encouraging a healthy relationship between both parents.

    Best of luck – I’m glad I never had to go down this route with my divorce because we never had kids.

  5. Pingback: The Paramour Clause Revisted | Smooth ReEntry

  6. Thanks for the heads up, Smooth! The Soon-to-be-Ex and I were married in Michigan, but had to file in south Carolina, because that’s where we lived for 8 years. I’ll have to be weary of such a clause because, by her own admission, the STBX probably won;t get re-married soon, if ever; and she would love to put the screws to me like that.

    Maybe your Ex and My Ex should go bowling sometime…

      • Good to hear from you Rob. I am sitting here preparing for NaNoWriMo believe it or not.

        The shittily worded paramour clause is part of the official divorce decree. I have yet to find any “keeper” women that I would even consider introducing to my kids. So I have not put The Paramour clause to the test yet. Doesn’t look like it is going to be tested anytime soon either…

  7. I’ve never heard of the Paramour Clause – perhaps there is no such thing in Canada. Five years after my divorce, I can’t imagine how restrictive such a clause would feel. It’s not like I’ve had a string of boyfriends sleeping over, but I was involved with one person for nearly three years, and, once we’d been together a number of months, he started staying from time to time. My ex has had three relationships serious enough that the women stayed at the house. I wasn’t crazy about the idea, especially because with the first, it all happened within three or four months of our separation. But at the same time, it doesn’t seem to have had a huge impact on the kids. It seems to me that this clause must get invoked pretty regularly in cases where there has been an affair and the other parent is looking for revenge…

  8. My wife has been having an affair for 6 months. Once I harvested the amount of needed evidence I announced it to her, then she the paramour. I’m the sole provider for our family. Realizing she would not be able to afford moving out, I started a lawsuit against the paramour. (North Carolina) I also filed for divorce from bed and board against her. They quickly offered to settle and want things to go smoothly. The paramour is a neighbor (ex-friend) and his kids and ours are all friends. His wife and my wife are friends, though I haven’t had sex with her, it is now on my bucket list. Kidding. My wife and the paramour are eager to move in together. In the agreement I requested that it never happen. *much fighting. I drew the line at a one year wait. Simply based on the idea that perhaps they could at least be divorced before introducing our old neighbors as step parents. *much fighting. My wife will go 6 months. I almost throw up every time I think about it. My 9 and 7 year olds will suddenly see their friends dad at mommy’s new house. His 9 and 7 year olds will see their friends mom at their daddy’s new place. Of course I think he is a terrible role model too. I don’t mind that he swept my wife off her feet. His punishment will come in the form of…my soon to be ex-wife.
    She makes it seem like I’m insane for even considering this to be a bad idea. Thoughts?

    • My apologies for the delayed response.

      First of all, your neighbor is a dick.

      (Forgive me for stating the obvious.)

      Man Code is fairly lenient when it comes to extra-marital affairs. The only women you are supposed to avoid are your relatives, and your friend’s wives.

      So you got hosed by your soon-to-be ex and your friend at the same time. Considering this, I don’t think you need to apologize for shit.

      Setting that aside, let’s assume that you are stand-up guy and want to have objectively valid reasons for requesting a paramour clause beyond spite. I think any psychologist can list a laundry list of reasons why she is setting a terrible example for the children, and it is not ideal for their long term feelings of safety and their welfare.

      I have written that the ‘honeymoon’ phase typically last 18 months. So I would want them to wait at least two years before they are thinking with their heads about whether they really want to live together and raise each other’s children. I would shoot for a paramour clause of 3 or 4 years.

      Be sure to remember that the clause will apply to you too. Depending on what custody you are seeking, don’t screw yourself. In my case, the kids are with their mother most of the time. So I have plenty of nights for overnight guests.

      If I were you, I would lean towards a clause of 3 or 4 years.

      Sorry for the delayed reply. Please post an update when you have time!

      • Thanks. With inspiration from this blog I dug into the topic. I managed to find enough info to convince my Wife that she would lose custody with anything less than a year. She agreed to waiting until after the divorce but the terms of the SepAg won’t be what is used to define our custody arrangement once we get divorced.I needed to get her out of my house. I did. If they move in together, they won’t see their kids. He paid THOUSANDS to me and I had him write her a check for $ 10k so she could afford to move out. It’s all good for now but I’ll be going for blood again soon

      • Good for you man!

        > Goal: Watch out for kids: Check.
        > Goal: Prove to yourself that you aren’t a doormat: Check.
        > Goal: Prove to them you will stand up for yourself if they step out of line. Check.

        Go for as much blood as you need to. But remember, the attorneys love that stuff. After you have accomplished what you need to, such as the goals listed above, let her move on to a life of misery where they live in paranoia of each other cheating the way they did with each other. They will self implode–either because one will cheat, or one will accuse the other one of invading their privacy. Either way, no one will listen to them since their credibility is gone.

        Get even by moving on and being happy. Leave them to sleep in the dysfunctional bed they’ve made. Just my two cents.

        Again, nice work! Glad to hear a happy ending for a change!

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