Is it legal to negotiate visitation schedule that deviates from MSA agreement? If so, is it binding?

Asked 12 months ago - Austin, TX

Biological father wants infant for his vacation, but mother is asking for time also for her vacation and both parties negotiations would be outside of MSA agreement. If one party agrees to terms and allows extra time with other parent, then when it comes time for the other parent to hold their part of the deal and changes their mind, is the negotiation outside legally binding even with proof of email or text? Or would the MSA agreement be the only thing the judge cares about?

Attorney answers (1)

  1. Angela Lynn Lee

    Contributor Level 3

    Answered . Strictly speaking, if the informal arrangement doesn't comply with terms in the Marital Settlement Agreement, then no, it's not legally binding. However, practically speaking, whether or not a judge will enforce an informal arrangement depends on the judge, and there may be other factors (not included in your question) that would affect a judge's ruling.

    Informal communications (i.e., email or text) can be used as evidence of an agreement, but there's no way to accurately predict how much weight any given judge would give this evidence, or whether the judge would accept this kind of arrangement. There are no guarantees once you step outside of the MSA.

    It's always best to comply with the terms spelled out in the MSA, since these are the terms the parties have already agreed upon. If the MSA requires a writing signed by both parties for an agreement to be binding, the implicit warning is that the court has no duty to enforce any arrangements made otherwise.

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