If you are currently facing or have already started a child custody case, one of the best tools you can have is a ‘custody journal'. What is a custody journal? It's a journal you create solely for the purpose of documenting all the aspects of daily life to support your child custody claims in family court. It is important that this journal not be part of any other personal journal, as it is very likely portions of it may become part of the public record depending on the facts in your case.
Here are three tips for keeping a custody journal:
Journal Every Day
It is very important to write something in your custody journal every day, even if nothing bad happens that day. First, it will help you maintain the habit, but it will also give you the opportunity to document the good or happy things which happen throughout the litigation process, instead of every entry only focusing on the negative aspects of your case.
Organize Your Journal Entries by Topic
This is sometimes difficult to do with a hand-written journal, but in today's modern world where almost everyone has a smart phone, tablet or computer, there are a number of journalling apps which will allow you to “tag” your entries with various categories for easy sorting and organizing. For example, some of your tags may be: Behavior Issues; Visitation Denial; Late Pickups/No Shows; Child Support; Alienation; Co-Parenting; Discipline; Education; Medical Issues; Telephone Contact; Holidays, etc. When you create a journal entry, “tag” it with the appropriate category, then when your attorney asks for examples or information regarding a particular issue in your case, all you have to do is search your app for all the entries tagged with that category and hit “print.” This is much easier than relying on your memory to get all the details, dates and chronology right in the moment.
Journal Events Fairly
You will do your case no favors by only using your journal to bash every action your ex makes during the case. When your ex does things which are good or positive for your child's benefit, make sure to make notes about those things, as well. If your journal never has anything good to say about the other parent and your attorney, or the GAL, take the time to read all of the entries, you could do more harm than good to your case. Also, if you do things that aren't proper, such as losing your temper during a visitation exchange, make sure to make note of that. It will do no good for your journal to list every time the other parent loses his or her temper, but then never mention your own short falls and have your attorney or the GAL learn of them elsewhere. Remember, your custody journal should be further evidence of your credibility in the case, not evidence against it.