Are Oral Agreements Between Parents Valid? Verbal Agreements Can Quickly Fall Apart

In a Family Law matter, parents may often attempt to work out or resolve issues of parenting time on their own, whether in anticipation of a divorce or even after a divorce is made final and changes to a current parenting plan need to be made.  Many parents wonder, are oral agreements between parents valid? While they are an easy way to make minor changes to issues regarding the children, it seems to be fine until one person doesn’t agree anymore. Once a problem arises, a verbal agreement is probably going to turn into a “he said – she said” situation.

Minor Changes to Agreements

Minor changes to a child’s visitation may be faster and easier to approve through simple verbal communication. Certainly the courts do not need to be bogged down with cases where parents want to make slight visitation changes to which they are both in agreement. This is probably not necessary. However, it is always best to put any type of permanent or long-term changes in writing. For example, the child’s father wants to change the drop-off time on Sunday evenings from 6 PM to 7 PM. You agree to this change verbally, but you should protect both parties by following that up with an email or other written communication.

Written Agreements

Written agreements are more reliable than oral agreements because both parties have the opportunity to review and approve of the document. These agreements can be considered binding pursuant to Rule 69 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.  In situations where the parents have difficulty communicating with each other, get help from a third party. Put changes to visitation or other minor details in writing. When possible, the agreements should be notarized. However, short of that, you should at least have written communication through emails or even text messages.

Major Modifications

When major changes are necessary to child custody, visitation, or support, they must be made through the courts. Do not rely on a simple verbal approval of your former spouse in matters that are quite serious. For example, if you want to move out of state with your child it would be considered a major change to the visitation or custody arrangements that are in place. Not only do these types of matters require written approval, but they generally also require a modification to the court ordered parenting time to be at least approved by a judge. Any questions regarding changes to your current parental agreements that are in place should be directed to an experienced divorce attorney. If you need support and guidance through a divorce, count on the compassionate legal team at Udall Shumway for assistance.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Are Oral Agreements Between Parents Valid, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Lindsay A.M. Olivarez at 480.461.5300, log on to, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.