Often times I advise clients to keep a journal in their family law case. This journal may prove to be very beneficial in future court proceedings. This journal will prove to be a very valuable aid in helping you remember the events and activities when you and your divorce attorney prepare for trial.
The journal doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be a simple spiralbound notebook where you keep a log of the daily activities as it relates to your child or children. Things that you should take into account when making entries in your journal should include:
• Contact attempts that have been denied
• Phone calls that go unanswered, and/or voice mails for the children not returned
• Every single time that the other parent violates the child custody order
• Every single time the children have remarkable school outcome, including: good or bad grades, tardies, absences, missed parent-teacher conferences, disciplinary issues
• Any time the parent does something on behalf of the kid (takes to doctor, dentist, scouts, church, etc.); include names of third-party objective references such as teachers, coaches, youth pastor, etc., who can verify parental involvement in child’s life
• Notes of all child custody exchanges to include the child’s demeanor, adverse behaviors, other problems with the exchange (e.g. other parent changed location, time, created a scene, attempted to deny access, made excuses for a failure to appear, etc.)
Think in terms of what you would like to tell a judge sometime down the road. Also consider how you can prove your claims? Is there any paperwork that can document the incident and if so, do you have a copy of said paperwork? You want to be able to say, “Your Honor, the other parent is denying me the right to see my children....”, then you want to also be able to back that up with, “…in the month of December, I attempted telephone contact 38 times, and was able to make contact only once….” or whatever the actual details are. If you have it in a journal that you have kept daily, then it offers a lot more credibility.
Journaling is important, even if your child custody journal entry is, “There was nothing notable to report today.”
If you want to be able to say “Your Honor, I’ve been heavily involved in the children’s lives…”, you want to be also be able to back that up with, “…In the past six months, I’ve taken them to the doctor twice — here is an affidavit from the Doctor’s office — I’ve taken them to church youth activities on a weekly basis — here is an affidavit from the Youth Pastor of our church — I’ve taken them to dance practices and/or games on a weekly basis — here is an affidavit from the ballet teach or soccer coach…” and so forth.
A daily journal will not only help you have credibility with the judge, but it will also help your attorney prepare your case when it goes to mediation or to trial. You give the attorney the “ammunition,” and then trust him/her to point and “fire” at the right time.
If you have questions about what you should include in your journal, ask your divorce attorney. Hopefully your divorce will be one of the few that won’t need a journal, but it never hurts to be cautious.