If you are facing a contested custody case, one of the best tools you can have in your arsenal is a parenting journal. A parenting journal is simply a record or chronology of events that happen between you and the other party and/or children. This may be a computer file, a Google calendar, or simply hand-written notes kept in a pocket notebook or calendar. Things to make a note of may include:
It is important that you write in your journal on a regular basis for a couple of different reasons. The first is because this way you will get in the habit of keeping the journal. Second, the journal is much more persuasive if it is maintained and entries are made as they occur rather than trying to "rebuild" the event from memory days or weeks later. Do not use this journal as your private diary. Keep in mind the entries may be used in your custody hearing and become part of the public record.
- Incidents that occur at visitation exchanges or missed visits
- Negative comments made by the opposing party
- School issues
- Extracurricular activities
- Incidents of domestic violence
- Statements made by the children about abuse or neglect
- Observations about changes in the children's behavior
Because the entire point of making the journal in the first place is to assist you in your court case, it is also important to make journal entries fairly. Do not use the journal as an opportunity to bash the other parent; you will do your case no favors. This includes using profanity, personal attacks on your ex, or other "code" words for your ex. I had a case one time where a grandparent thought they were extremely clever by referring to their former daughter-in-law as "Tulsa" (read it backwards). If your journal is completely slanted or never has anything positive at all to say about the other parent, you will lose some credibility with the court or the GAL. Do not be afraid to mention your own issues as well. Remember the whole point is to help build your credibility. You cannot do that without exposing some of your flaws as well.
Finally, organize your journal. If you keep an electronic journal, this is relatively easy. Most tablets, smartphones, or computer word processing programs will allow you to "tag" your entries to make them easily searchable. This will help your attorney later when the two of you are trying to prepare for court. If you opt for the handwritten paper journal, consider using multicolored tabs to mark your entries.
Finally, keep your journal secure and private.
Labels: child custody, custody, evidence, hearing, journal, litigation, trial preparation