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.