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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- Barry Finkel: The Best Way To Protect Yourself From Infidelity? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Unconstitutional love (obitir.wordpress.com)
- Bill O’Reilly’s Holy War Of A Divorce (newshounds.us)
- No Divorce Is the New Divorce: Moms and Dads Navigate Messy Breakups in Marriage-less World (observer.com)
- A New Proposal (kokobeane.me)
- Mutual divorce (karachibestfamilylawyers.wordpress.com)