Morality Clause: Prohibiting Cohabitation and Overnight Guests

By Michelle Hughes

Divorce Lawyer, Cordell & Cordell

Note: Read the other morality clause article discussing the use of morality clauses to prohibit the use of alcoholic beverages and/or illegal drugs during periods of custody with the child.

We live in a “Charlie Sheen World” where movie stars and musicians are celebrated for their bad behavior and poor choices.

With all of these outside influences, parents find that it is more important than ever to impart morals and values on their child even when the child is in the care of an ex-spouse.

This has led to an increase in “Morality Clauses” being included, by consent of the parties, in Marital Separation Agreements.

If the case proceeds to trial and the judge makes a decision, it is rare to see a judge include a Morality Clause in the final order. However, it may be done under some circumstances as discussed below.

Morality Clauses have been used for many years and are mostly known to prohibit cohabitation or overnight visits with the opposite sex until the parent engaging in the activity becomes remarried.

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.

When the clause is used to prohibit cohabitation or overnight guests of the opposite sex, both parties need to understand that it is a two-way street. Typically, one party will not agree to include the language unless the other party also agrees to abide by the same terms.

Enforcement of these types of agreements can be a challenge. It can sometimes be hard to obtain evidence that one party has had an overnight guest in violation of the agreement.

Even if the party did have an overnight guest, the judge would need to find that there was some damage to the child.

Typically the party wanting to enforce the agreement also wants to modify custody to become the parent with sole physical custody. Unless the mother of your child basically has a different overnight guest a couple nights each week, you probably will not get the judge to modify the custody arrangement, but you may get more time with your child.

Cordell & Cordell has experienced and well-qualified family law attorneys located nationwide should you seek additional legal advice or representation in your divorce case.


Note: Read the other morality clause article discussing the use of morality clauses to prohibit the use of alcoholic beverages and/or illegal drugs during periods of custody with the child.


Mens divorce lawyerMichelle Hughes is an Associate Attorney in the Jefferson County, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Hughes is licensed in the states of Missouri and Illinois, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. A native to metro St. Louis, Ms. Hughes received her BBA in Economics and Finances from McKendree College. She later received her Juris Doctor from Thomas Cooley Law School where she graduated cum laude.

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13 Comments on "Morality Clause: Prohibiting Cohabitation and Overnight Guests"

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3 months 13 days ago
I was with my ex for 10 years, married for 5. He was never around the kids, mentally abusive, and slightly phiscally abusive towards the kids. I told him I wanted a divorce almost a complete year before I left. I filed the divorce papers a month after I moved out. Now he won’t sign them until I add a morality clause. I DO NOT want it. He says its “for the kids sake” but let’s just be honest he doesn’t care about what’s best for them. Can I fight this? Or is it a waste of time and money… Read more »
11 months 18 days ago
I live in the state of Colorado I am still legally married separated in Nov last year after I found out my husband was yet again cheating on me and after 10 years of physical and mental abuse. he now lives with this girlfriend. After we separated he stopped showing up to see his children for over a month when he finally came back around he immediately introduced his girlfriend to them this obviously affected them emotionally. We went to mediation and agreed we will not have overnight visits from sig.others until he had a 2 bedroom apartment, an attorney… Read more »
1 year 5 months ago

Is staying after midnight considered “overnight” in divorce decrees that state no overnight stays?

2 years 3 months ago

I’m divorced and remarried my ex husband isn’t and has a woman living with him and our 3 kids what can I do

2 years 11 months ago
Question?My significant other is still in the process of his divorce and his ex got lawyer which has pretty much forced him to find one. With all of that being said he could not afford to get a attorney along with paying her $350 a month in child support and paying all his bills for his residence. So him and I moved in together. Since that has happened she is now denying him overnight visits and is constantly calling him non stop trying to pick fights and bad mouthing him in the presents of their children. She is now taking… Read more »
3 years 1 month ago

How do you fight a temp ‘no opposite sex overnights’ order in ultra-conservative NC when you are already divorced?!
I am in NC and already divorced for 5 years with a standing temporary order not to have any overnights w/ persons of the opposite sex while I have my children in my care(financial issues are still pending tks to lousy attorneys). How can I fight this being made a part of the permanent and final order?

c smith
1 year 7 months ago

did you ever get any info on this? I am also in the same situation in SC.

4 years 3 months ago

Stopping alamony due to Cohabitation clause
My seperation agreement states alamony shall be terminated upon wife’s cohabitaion. My x-wife’s fiance has been spending weekends with my wife and childern (ages 9&12) on a regular basis. Does this constitue cohabition in NC?

E.G.: They eat meals together, do yard work, walk the other’s dog, share or trade use of each other’s cars, attend family functions together and or otherwise engage in other day to day activities with one another that would be considered similar to those of married persons.

4 years 10 months ago

How do I prove it?
what type of evidence is needed to prove that one party has had an overnight guest in violation of the agreement?

5 years 7 months ago
Enforcing Morality ClausesAs with most cases, you need evidence to prove that it is being broken. If these “domestic spats” were confirmed, then does that mean there were police reports? Eyewitnesses? Recordings? Enforcement of these types of agreements can be a challenge and as mentioned, even if the party did have an overnight guest, the judge would need to find that there was some damage to the child. If children were present during one of their “domestic spats” then you need to find evidence in order to convince the judge that this even occurred and it is not in the… Read more »
Chris W.
5 years 7 months ago
HmWell my question is… What if you have an existing moral clause, and you are sure that it is being broken. How do you prove to the court it is being broken. I have two kids with my ex that I never married. Shortly after I filed for custody, I got remarried. She did not and starting seeing a guy. They have had 2 confirmed domestic spats that havent resulted in anyone even getting slapped on the wrist, but once my children were present. That is partly why I am concerned. She just had twins with this guy and they… Read more »