Is an Oral Agreement with My Spouse Enforceable in Court?

Oral agreements can be messy.  By law, any agreements made regarding child support or maintenance are not enforceable unless there is a Court Order.  However, if there is an agreement regarding a visitation schedule, or custody, and you can show the Judge that this has been the “status quo”, a Judge will likely see that there was an agreement and that the schedule had been in place and was working, and would order same.

The tricky part is when the parties have a Judgment or an Order, and verbally modify this agreement.  Typically, oral agreements are generally enforceable in Illinois.  A Judge will look at the parties’ conduct and statements after an oral agreement is made to determine whether a contract had been made.  The one caveat is the Statute of Frauds, which requires certain contracts to be in writing; for example: (1) any contract for the sale of lands; and (2) any contract for a longer term than one year.  For the timing requirement, many courts have interpreted the timing requirement to mean “not capable of being performed” within one year.  In other words, if performance is possible within one year according to the terms of the contract, then a written contract is not required.  This applies even if performance is unlikely during that time frame.  Furthermore, you may be able to show that you relied on an oral agreement to your detriment, and that you partially performed.

As you can see, oral agreements, while likely to be enforceable, may require more litigation than its worth.  As a result, when in doubt, always reduce your agreements to writing, and preferably memorialized in a Court Order.

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