Court Orders For Custody & Visitation Vs. Verbal Agreements


Differences Between Court Ordered & Informal Verbal Custody Arrangements

Our Arizona Family Attorneys discuss how many couples have verbal agreements and hope that they will hold up when a dispute arises. Our Phoenix Divorce Lawyers encourage all of our clients to get court orders to assure that a resolution is easier.

Custody battles are notoriously long, stressful, and expensive. That’s why many parents who are splitting up, and agree on mostly everything, will try an informal custody agreement before getting the court involved. When a split is amicable, some parents are able to get by on a simple verbal agreement to serve as a parenting plan. But when custody arrangements aren’t ordered by the court, the court has no standing to enforce them. Read on to learn more about the differences between court ordered and informal verbal custody arrangements. If you need more information about which is right for you, call or use our online form to request your free consultation with one of our dedicated Phoenix child custody attorneys.

Differences Between Court Ordered & Informal Verbal Child Custody Arrangements In Arizona

More Information About Child Custody In Arizona

If you’re dealing with a custody matter, it’s important that you understand some basic terms surrounding child custody in Arizona before agreeing to anything. For example, many people assume that custody only refers to the schedule that the child spends with each parent. But in Arizona, there are actually two types of child custody: parenting time and legal decision-making. Parenting time is that time that each parent has the child, and is often called physical custody as well. This time can be carefully planned out in what is known as a parenting plan. Parenting plans are frequently split into divisions like 50/50, 3 day switches, and a few nights and weekends per month with one parent.

Legal decision-making is also referred to as legal custody. It is the parent’s right to make decisions about several aspects of their child’s life. A parent can have legal decision-making while the other parent has parenting time, or can have parenting time without legal custody. When one parent has all of either type of custody, it is referred to as sole custody. When the parents share custody, it’s called joint custody. Custody decisions are made with the child’s best interest in mind, and the courts operate on a presumption that it is usually best for the child to have an equal relationship with both parents.

Relevant Factors in an Arizona Custody Agreement

You may be wondering which factors will be relevant when the judge is deciding how to rule on a custody matter. There are several, and many of them will apply for some families and not for others. Again, all factors will be analyzed keeping the child’s best interest in mind. The judge will consider the type of relationship each parent has with the child, as well as the potential for their future relationship. The child’s adjustment period to the household, school, and community with each parent is also relevant. The child’s relationships with other household members at each household can also be considered. Once the child gets older, frequently around 12 years old, their opinion will be taken into account. The judge will take the parents’ and child’s mental health into consideration. If one parent has purposely delayed proceedings, withheld visitation from the other parent, or committed domestic violence, it will hurt their chances at getting custody. Contact a Phoenix child custody attorney for information about what other factors could be relevant in your case.

Verbal Parenting Agreements In Phoenix Family Law

Agreeing verbally to a parenting plan rather than going through the courts could save you a significant amount of money on court and attorney’s fees. But without a family law judge’s supervision, you will need to rely on your ex’s word that they will honor the verbal agreement. A custody agreement needs to be ordered by the court for it to be enforceable by the court. That doesn’t mean that you have to go to trial to obtain an enforceable custody agreement. You and your ex can still reach an out-of-court agreement that is then signed off by the court, also known as a Rule 69 agreement. This adds a layer of accountability to a custody agreement that a verbal agreement does not provide, without creating the extra hassle and cost of a trial. The judge will review and sign off on the agreement, making it legally binding. The judge may take your formal verbal agreement into consideration when ruling on your custody matter in court.

Court Ordered: Custody Modifications In Limited Circumstances

One of your concerns about getting a court-ordered parenting plan may be how permanent they are. Unfortunately, modifying a court-ordered custody plan can be complicated. Some parents may rely on a verbal agreement to informally modify court orders, but this can cause issues if your ex wants to change the parenting plan back or further. Just like a verbal parenting agreement, a verbal custody modification won’t be court enforceable.

The court will only grant a custody modification in limited circumstances. First, there must have been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances to warrant the modification. Substantial, meaning a significant change, and usually at least 10% or more if the change can be represented numerically. For example, a parent could start a new job or school, substantially reducing their free time to spend with the child. Continuing means that the circumstances are likely to remain the same for a long time. Another requirement that must be met is that the current orders must have been in place for at least 12 months. However, the court doesn’t have a waiting period requirement for an emergency modification if the child’s safety is at risk.

When Is It Time To Get The Court Involved?

If you’ve been relying on a verbal agreement, it can be hard to decide just when a verbal agreement is no longer sufficient and that you need enforceable orders from a family law judge.

Here are some situations where you may want to consider seeking a court-ordered parenting plan, especially with the assistance of an experienced Phoenix family law attorney:

  • Your ex constantly doesn’t show up to pick up your child, or refuses to let the child come back to your house.
  • You suspect your child isn’t being properly cared for at your ex’s household.
  • Your ex changes your child’s school, doctor, extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Your child is struggling in school due to a stressful environment at their other parent’s house.
  • If, your ex consistently violates your verbal agreement.
  • Your ex plans to or already has taken your child out of the state or country against your wishes.
  • You or your ex wants to move away and take the child with them.
  • Your ex will be away for an extended period of time and can’t care for the child (e.g., deployment, prison).
  • Your child wants to spend the majority of their time at your household, especially if your household is more convenient for their education, friendships, and activities.
  • Or, if your ex hasn’t been paying child support, and a formal parenting plan will help make support calculations easier

Create Your Perfect Custody Agreement With Skilled Phoenix Family Law Representation

Once you make the decision to move from a verbal custody agreement to a court-ordered one, it’s important that your agreement is drafted precisely. Otherwise, your ex can use the agreement against you, and you will get in trouble with the court for any violations. Repeated violations could even mean that you lose physical and/or legal custody of your child. So with all that’s on the line, you need a custody agreement that will work for you well into the future.

Our dedicated Arizona family law team can help you achieve these results at a fair price. We offer affordable rates and payment plan options to fit your budget. You and your family deserve high quality legal representation without breaking the bank. Save yourself time and effort versus representing yourself, and money versus going with our competition. Therefore, you should get started risk-free by scheduling your no cost, no obligation initial consultation. Please, call 480-833-8000 or use our online form.


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