Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Controversial family law bill introduced in Massachusetts

A Massachusetts lawmaker has made waves in the national press recently for introducing a controversial family law bill. The bill prohibits parents who are in the midst of a divorce from "conducting a dating or sexual relationship within the home" until the divorce has been finalized. In order to bring a date home, a parent would first need approval from a judge.

The bill was written with the apparent intent of protecting children from confusion or sadness at seeing their parents dating someone new. However, the broad language in the proposed law does much more than that, and could have unfortunate consequences for child custody disputes if one parent invokes a violation of the law against the other.

It may also be seen, on a constitutional level, as being an intrusion into the ultra-private sphere of the home, where previous Supreme Court rulings have found the law has no place. Child welfare provisions are typically the exception to that principle, but it is not clear at this time that there is any evidence to support this measure as being beneficial to children’s wellbeing. In fact, it could have negative consequences if children are unable to see or stay with a parent who has begun dating again during the divorce process, which can sometimes go on for years after a couple separates.

At this point it does not seem likely that the bill will pass and become a law in Massachusetts. However if that changes it will be important to understand the impact it could have on families.

Source: Boston.com, “Bill would forbid divorcing parents in Massachusetts from having sex in home,” Jack Pickell, Mar. 23, 2014

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