Custody Preparation for Moms

A support site provided by those that have been through the process.
   

 

 

DOCUMENTING YOUR CUSTODY CASE

You are going to be called upon for reams of documents and materials during the course of your case. Keep originals of everything that you can and keep copies of everything at very least. See also our article "Tips For How To Organize Your Case File". Obviously, you are going to need to retain all correspondence from the attorneys, evaluators and the court. The focus for this article is primarily on custody matters, not property. See our link page for "Tao of Divorce" for some tips on financial documentation. Here are some other documents to consider maintaining in regards to custody issues:

Journaling:
It is important to keep a chronology of events that happen in the time leading from the decision to divorce to trial. Do not advertise that you maintain a journal. Some attorneys recommend keeping hand-written notes, so check with yours first on what they suggest. We found it easiest to maintain a journal on the computer. Simply put in the date and a brief, non-emotional summary of what happened that day.

Things to keep notes on are:

  • comments the children have made about neglectful, inappropriate, alienating or abusive parenting by the ex
  • similar comments by others
  • school issues
  • extra-curricular activities
  • medical, dental, therapy, orthodontics, etc.
  • appointments, conversations, etc.
  • early/late pick-up times
  • incidents of domestic violence/abusive behaviors by ex
  • observations - missing personal effects, bruises, scratches, children's demeanor, dirty/damaged clothing, etc.
  • telephone calls -- etc.

Some moms keep individual sheets on each "major" disturbance and package it up as an exhibit for the judge also.

Journaling can be helpful to refer to in order to summarize by date and time the above occurrences for depositions, discovery, the custody investigator and trial.

Taping:
A guide to taping in all 50 states is available at  http://www.rcfp.org/taping/index.html Check with legal counsel as for admissibility and to verify the guidelines found in the website above.

Exercise caution here as well. Some judges will vilify the person doing the taping, disallow it as evidence, etc.

You should likewise assume that every conversation and exchange you have with your ex and your children is being documented or recorded.

No one should be aware that you are taping (see the laws in your state for exceptions to this), especially your children.

Photographs & Other Evidence:
You can use photographs, police reports, etc. as supporting exhibits for your journaling. If you are documenting injuries, it is best to have the police department or emergency room workers do the photographing. In the Elizabeth Morgan case, her photographic documentation of her child's sexual abuse injuries was portrayed to the court as "child pornography".

If photographic documentation is done, try to use "real", not digital photographs, as the claim can be made that the photographs were altered digitally. . Keep the roll of film intact--no other photograph subject matter. Keep the negatives with the pictures and the developing envelope from the lab. Prior to court and upon receipt of developed film, have the photographer sign each photograph on the back with the date and time taken and date signed. Said photos should then be placed in an envelope and preferably sealed with evidence tape. Whoever sealed it should mark the outside of the envelope with subject matter/dates and photographer's name.

Another way is to have any other (credible and nonbiased) witnesses testimony entered on record that this is a true graphic representation/depiction of what they saw on Johnny on 12/24/01.

Miscellaneous:
It doesn't seem to matter whether you are custodial or non-custodial. As soon as anyone hears "custody & divorce" your and the kids experiences are discounted in most people's eyes as just another messy divorce. Don't let that stop you from doing what you need to do.

Always stay very calm and respectful even when you are being patronized. Police will often not want to do a report, considering custody orders civil matters that are outside their control. In the instance of visitation violations, for example, you could explain that you understand they really can't enforce visitation, but would they be so kind to just write up the facts. Acknowledge what they were thinking, but still get the piece of paper you need.

Always try to have witnesses other than family members for exchanges if possible. If not possible, then family will have to do. You need someone else to back up your view of the incident. Check with your attorney first before retaining the services of a private investigator.

It is generally best for someone other than you to report to CPS (Child Protective Services) about abuse and neglect issues. CPS is often dismissive when one spouse calls in abuse against the other during divorce/custody proceedings. Court personnel often wrongly assume that abuse allegations arising during divorce/custody are false and may penalize the spouse making the allegations. Check the laws of your state to identify who are mandated reporters. Be aware, that oftentimes, if CPS workers can not ascertain with complete certainty that an abuse occurs, a report may be issued that says "unfounded". Although this finding just means they could not firmly establish abuse or neglect, and that it may well have occurred, court personnel will sometimes construe this to mean a false allegation was made and punish the reporting parent.

Some former partners will be, how shall we say, a little reluctant to pay child support and will use every tactic to stall and harass you if you are the primary/custodial parent determined eligible to receive such support. Some will demand excessive documentation and detailing of how you spend child support. Get in the habit of throwing receipts and invoices in an envelope for each month so if this happens in your case you have the back-up.

Security Issues:
Just as you are documenting your case, so may be your ex. Keep in mind that you may be being followed by a private detective, your trash may be being picked up and sorted through, and your computer may be hacked. If you are not already living a squeaky-clean existence, do so now.

If your ex is no longer living in your home, immediately have all the locks changed and use them.

If your ex has a history of domestic violence, consider having someone else do the visitation exchanges. This can be informally or with a court-ordered supervisor. In more highly charged situations, it may be safer for you and the children to have exchanges occur with a supervisor in a neutral location--away from your home.  Abusers will often use information gained during exchanges against you in court in one fashion or another.  It is generally best, if possible to keep as much distance as possible.  We are aware of fathers that attempt to goad the mothers at exchanges, that report to the court the mother wasn't "friendly enough", that the mother says things she never said.  If you're not present for the exchanges, you may avoid some of these scenarios.


 

2002 - 2012 Custody Preparation For Moms.ORG