How to make verbal custody agreements enforceable

Mens divorce lawyerQuestion:

My ex has verbally agreed to let me have sole physical and legal custody of our children.

What steps do I need to take to make our agreement official? Does it matter that my children and ex currently live in a different state (Texas) then where our divorce judgment was entered (Florida)?


In order to modify an earlier order, such as your Final Decree of Divorce, a new suit must be filed. In order to change the terms and conditions of an existing court ordered custody arrangement, you will need to file a suit to modify custody.

A Texas court can modify a child custody order that was rendered in another state, only if Texas has jurisdiction under the family code. Since the previous order in your case was rendered in Florida, this applies to you.

One way a Texas court can acquire jurisdiction to modify a custody order rendered by a Florida court is if Texas is the child’s home state. The Family Code defines “home state” as the state in which the child lived with a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the custody proceeding began.

Once a Texas court acquires jurisdiction, a custody order can generally be modified on four different grounds: 1) an agreement by the parties plus it is in the best interest of the child, 2) the child is at least 12 years of age and expresses a preference of which parent he or she prefers to live with, plus it is in the best interest of the child, 3) the parent with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence has voluntarily relinquished primary care and possess of the child for at least six months, plus it in in the best interest of the child, and 4) there is a material and substantial change in the circumstances of the child and it is in the best interest of the child.

Applicable here is the first ground, the court can modify a custody order if the parties agree to the modification and such is in the best interest of the child or children.

To determine whether the modification would be in the best interest of the child, the court considers various factors, including, but not limited to caring for the child, maintaining family relationships and parental fitness.

If the court finds that there is an agreement by the parties and that such a change of custody is in the best interest of the child, the judge will grant the request and the new order will act to change the terms of the previous one as it relates to custody.

For more information please contact a Texas family law attorney. Please be advised that my answering of this question does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located in 18 states.


Jennifer Hankinson is a Staff Attorney in the Dallas, Texas office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Hankinson is licensed in the state of Texas. Ms. Hankinson received her bachelors’ degrees in both Finance and Political Science from Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. She later received her Juris Doctor from Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Washington, where she graduated Cum Laude.  

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