Once a divorce involving children becomes inevitable, it is not unusual for parents to worry about what will occur to their children when they are not around. Their concerns often influence the requests they make during visitation and custody discussions. A parent who feels strongly about certain behavior and activities that might endanger a child may want a morality clause included in his or her divorce settlement agreement. Though the reasons for their request may seem innocent, a morality clause has the ability to directly affect your life during the rest of your children’s minority.
Alcohol and Drug Consumption
While morality clauses are commonly associated with post-divorce relationships, it is possible to create a clause that prohibits alcohol consumption or the use of illegal narcotics in the presence of children. Proof of past alcohol or drug abuse in the form of an arrest for driving under the influence, public intoxication, or drug possession may be presented as the reason for needing the morality clause. Alternatively, statements made by family members or friends can be used to prove the use. Once it is in place, if your spouse believes that you have violated the clause, he or she can request that you submit to an alcohol or drug test.
Overnight visits and cohabitation by anyone other than a legal spouse or blood relative may be prohibited using a morality clause. Some spouses may insist on a detailed clause that does not allow either party to introduce new significant others to children until a specific amount of time has passed after the divorce. Usually both parties are required to adhere to the morality clause, but in some situations the clause will only apply to one parent. A person who is eager to settle a divorce for emotional or financial reasons may agree to the one-sided morality clause without thinking about the long-term implications.
Penalties for Violation
Once the divorce agreement is finalized, any morality clauses that both parties agreed on become court ordered. If a clause is violated, and your spouse is able to provide the court with proof of the violation, you could find yourself facing a contempt motion. Penalties for violating a clause can include paying your former spouses legal expenses, losing visitation time, or having the co-parenting plan seriously modified. In cases in which the violation placed your children at risk, the other parent may ask for custody to be modified, and the court can appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to help determine how much harm has been done to the children.
Contact an Attorney
If you or someone you know is going through a divorce and are presented with a morality clause, it is important to have a qualified child custody attorney review the requested agreement. Allowing a spouse to force you to agree to something with long-term repercussions, or agreeing to something out of guilt, can place you at significant risk for future court actions. The attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum are prepared to provide you with aggressive representation that focuses on your best interests. Our lawyers are available to discuss your concerns and explore all available options with you. Contact us today to schedule a private consultation at any of our four Atlanta area locations.