Updated: Oct 21, 2020
Child custody cases can be complicated, and definitely challenging. Especially if you and your ex do not see eye to eye. To be sure that you have the best possible chance of getting the outcomes you want in your child custody arrangement, it is absolutely necessary to prepare for the case ahead of time. When it comes to matters in family law, what you need to do is get together all the appropriate documents to present before the court. Showing the judge proof of your bond with your child and that you are a capable as a parent are crucial.
You should keep all the documents together and organized in a binder. I recommend All of It Custody Binder, which will help guide you of additional things to keep track of especially in high conflict custody cases. It has forms to help you know what to document, makes documenting easy so you just have to fill in the blanks, and has room for additional information. It made the difference in my custody case.
Here is a list of 5 of the most important things to document for you child custody case:
1. Written Submissions to the Court
Before anything you must have a written submission to the court to begin the custody hearing. For this document you will need to outline your position (what you are asking the court for), and why. This written submission will explain what type of documentation you have gathered to support what you are asking for, and will give the judge a good idea of what you are bringing to the table for your case. The judge will review your case before the hearing, so it is important to submit as many details as you possibly can.
And, don't forget, the other parent will be submitting their documents to the judge as well. So there will also be evidence that could go against you. Your attorney, which I really recommend getting one, can work with you to help you figure out what your written submission should contain and when it should be submitted.
2. Visitation Logs
It is important to make sure that you keep track of all parenting arrangements once you and your ex separate. This should include:
A shared custody arrangement
All communication between your child and the other parent
Phone call logs
You should keep the logs very detailed showing how much time the child spends with you as compared to the other parent, and what they do during their time together if possible. An example could be, you take care of getting the kids ready and taking them to school, help with their homework, and provide dinner on a regular basis. Whereas, the other parent usually just takes the child to the park once a week. You will want to show the judge all the differences in the responsibilities of the care each of you provides. Or, maybe the other parent just visits or communicates a few times a year. The court may view this as evidence of a very insubstantial relationship.
You should also document if you notice any difference in behavior between when your child is with you as compared to when your child is with the other parent. The issue may be relatively minor, like the child just doesn't like the other parent's house, or a serious issue like you suspect that the other parent is abusive or negligent. You should note the difference in behavior because it can mean a great deal to the courts.
3. Phone Calls and Other Forms of Communication
To go along with what was mentioned above under Visitation Logs, any communication that you share with the other parent should also be recorded and submitted to the courts. If you emailed each other to discuss parenting arrangements or change an upcoming visit, make sure to log the change in your binder and attach a copy of the email. There is a section provided in All of It Custody Binder to do just that, and keep it all organized and objective. Keeping records of instances like this could be very important if the other parent wants to try and play dirty and say that you withheld parenting time or something of that nature.
The same applies to voicemails, text messages, or any other traceable exchanges. If the other parent is contentious or shows any unwillingness to compromise for the sake of the child, you should also record this behavior and submit it to the courts.
4. Documents to Support Your Child's Well-Being
Another important thing to document and bring along, are documents showing the evidence of your child's overall health, happiness, and/or well-being. A possible example could be, if your child had bad grades while living with the other parent, or the opposite, good grades while living mainly with you, this could definitely work to your favor. If you have evidence that you correspond with your child's doctors, teachers, coaches, therapists, and other important people in their life, show that you hold that responsibility. A good thing to also include are written statements from these individuals that tell about your relationship with your child. These statements can be used in court as evidence of your involvement.
If your child is often injured or has marks when they come from the other parent's care, make sure you include pictures and medical documents from the hospital or any other care that you may have to seek after the accident. You may really consider reporting them if it becomes a serious pattern as well.
5. Records of Bad Behavior
In situations where the other child's parent is unfit, negligent, and/or abusive, or in any way at all dangerous to your child's well-being, you need to include any evidence of that behavior. If for example, the other parent misses scheduled visits regularly, or maybe leaves your child alone after school with no ride, keep track and document all of that! Again, I recommend using All of It Custody Binder to record those incidents. There are spots to fill in details like, dates, times, involved parties, and more to make sure that you have every detail that you may need. If you have any complaints or written records of these instances from teachers, daycares, or voicemails and/or text messages from the other parent, keep those copies in your binder.
If there have ever been any incidents of domestic violence, whether directed at you or at your child, make sure to keep record of it and include police reports, 911 calls, doctor's visits, and any other official charges or convictions. If the other parent has a criminal record, for any reason at all, include their record as well.
I really hope this guide has helped give you some answers. Child custody cases can, and usually are, very tricky. If you make sure you prepare and gather all the evidence you need, you can make the entire thing move much more quickly and smoothly. Documenting can also improve your arguments and support your claims.
Again, I am going to recommend All of It Custody Binder. It helped me so much in my own personal custody case for my son. My lawyer, John Goodridge, said that it was the most thorough that he had seen. It helped save me money, because I had already done all the leg work, and put the other lawyer into a frenzy trying to figure out arguments to the over abundance of proof I had gathered over time.