By Michelle Hughes
Divorce Lawyer, Cordell & Cordell
The society that we live in is inundated with sex, drugs and alcohol on television, in music and in the movies.
With all of these outside influences, parents find that it is important, more than ever, to impart morals and values on their child.
Morality clauses can be a useful tool to aid parents in upholding their morals and values even while the child is spending time with the other parent. (Read my previous article, “Morality Clauses: Prohibiting Cohabitation and Overnight Guests.”)
These clauses have been used to prohibit the use of alcoholic beverages and/or illegal drugs during periods of custody with the child.
Generally, I do not recommend that my clients agree to these types of clauses.
There have been situations where one parent was jailed for drug charges or has received inpatient medical treatment for drugs and/or alcohol. If this is the case, generally the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to determine what is in the best interest of your child.
If the GAL believes that the parent could be a repeat offender then he could recommend that a morality clause be included in the Marital Separation Agreement.
Even if the GAL recommends the clause be included, that does not mean that the parties must agree to it. However, if the case proceeds to a trial before the judge, the GAL would testify that the clause should be included and the judge would then likely order it based upon the recommendation.
Enforceability of drinking and drug morality clauses tends to be a bit easier. The clause is generally written that the parent engaging in custody must refrain from using alcohol during periods of custody and all illegal drugs.
To monitor this, if one parent believes that the other parent has violated this provision, the non-offending parent may request a drug or alcohol test. The parent requesting the test must pay for the test and the alleged offending parent must take the test within 24 hours.
If the alleged offending parent habitually fails to take the test then the court may construe those refusals as an admission of guilt.
If the tests are positive for drugs and alcohol, then the non-offending parent needs to motion the court to modify custody if he or she believes his or her child is in danger due to the alcohol and/or drug abuse.
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: A previous article explained how morality clauses have been used to prohibit co-habitation or overnight visits with the opposite sex until the parent engaging in the activity becomes remarried.
Michelle 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.
2 comments on “Morality Clause: Prohibiting Use of Alcohol and Drugs”
My boyfriend has been divorced since 2013, needless to say it was a bad divorce. His ex was fighting him for full custody but in the end the ended up with joint legal and physical custody. The day they went to trial the childrens gal did not have all his paperwork with him so the final judgement we received in the mail a month later signed and done. In their papers he has this morality claus and the way its worded legally the kids can be no where alcoholo is present so places such as the zoo and wal mart technically is off limits! My question is its been over 2 yrs, and im sorry if I want a glass of wine at dinner i should be able to have one but do we have to go back to court for this? Seems to me a judge would be pretty angry to waste his time in court over being able to have a drink at dinner but since she dont drink there is no way of getting her to “agree” to allowing it, mind you my boyfriend nor I have ever been in any trouble with alcohol at all.
my ex has been in contempt of the custody order since its been put in place and my lawyer has written him letters in reference to this matter. first my ex gave my child to his 2nd ex wife for a wknd while he spends time with the girlfriend, second he and his girlfriend is sleeping in the same bed as my 4yr old, third he had his niece bring my child to the drop off location and her children and my son was not in a proper car seat. my ex has assaulted me in front of my son(i have that on video) and we went to court but the judge dismissed that. the judge even said he has anger issues but nothing was done. i now have a new lawyer and we are working on getting this custody order modified. i was wondering if i can take away his overnight visits, just give him some holiday and daytime visits. my ex and his sister also call the cops on me because he doesnt want to keep his son until i pick him up after work. normal visit hrs are fri 6pm – sun 6pm but since i work and get off at 7:15 and i work an hr traveling time away from my home he doesnt want to keep him but the order states he can meet me at 8pm but he doesnt want to. my ex told me i had to make arrangements with the court on this matter.