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The Importance of Keeping a Parenting Journal in a Child Custody Disputes

When child custody and parenting time are likely to become disputed either during or after a divorce, one of the most useful tools you can have is a parenting journal. A well-kept journal can provide immeasurable assistance to your attorney, help to fill in the blanks when your recollections are incomplete and make the difference to a judge struggling to make decisions in the best interest of your child.

Even when child custody and parenting time issues do not appear to be in dispute at the start of the divorce process, attorneys often recommend that parents begin journaling. Child custody disputes often arise well into the divorce process when settlement discussions become difficult.

Keeping a parenting journal has become so commonplace that Amazon sells a variety of child custody journals, logbooks, and calendars. Several companies have also designed software to assist parents in keeping an electronic journal. The format of the journal is unimportant, other than that you should regularly back up any electronic journals.

Making journal entries should become a habit. Make this part of a routine at the end of your day. Remain objective. Never lie or include false information. Keep entries factual and avoid using the journal as a method to vent frustrations about the other parent. Remember that people are likely to review the journal, including your lawyer, the other parent's lawyer, and possibly a parenting investigator or a judge.

Parenting time and Parental Contacts

If you are the custodial parent, keep track of when parenting time with the other parent are scheduled, and whether they are completed or canceled and the reason for cancellation. Note when you or the other parent request a rearrangement of the parenting time schedule and why. Note the duration of visits and pick-up and drop-off times and locations. Describe any conflict that occurs during the child exchange.

Be sure to detail any incidents of neglect, violence, or careless behavior by the other parent to the best of your knowledge.

Note the frequency and content of phone calls between you and your child while the child is with the other parent. Also, describe any instances of the other parent preventing you from speaking to your child on the phone.

Keep track of conversations and copies of emails and texts you exchange with the other parent. This might include things such as reminding a parent to help a child with homework or take prescribed medication. Be sure to include the date, start time, and length of conversations.

Activities and Daily Routines

The section might include such things as whether you drove the child to school, took the child to a doctor appointment, met with teachers and school counselors, attended church with your child, or attended a school or sporting event in which your child was involved. Include events like having dinner out, shopping for school clothes, going on vacation, or just visiting with relatives and neighbors.

Write down the names of persons involved and contact information if available. This will give you a list of references who can be called upon if needed to describe your involvement and interaction in your child's life.

Note positive and negative comments made by adults about the other parent.

In making child custody decisions, some states require judges to consider which parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child. Keeping a detailed activity log should provide ample evidence on that issue.

Behaviors, Moods and Health

Make note of any unusual behavior or moods that occur before or after a visitation. Include comments the child makes about the other parent, both good and bad. While you should not subject your child to intense interrogation, it can be important to note comments made in casual conversation.

Document school grades and behavior issues. Track absences and late arrivals. If grades improve or slip more than usual, you may discover a pattern related to parenting time.

Note symptoms of an illness when they first appear and how you respond. Include the times and doses of medication given. Keep track of doctor and dentist appointments. Document what information you provided to the other parent regarding the child's health. Note your child's sleeping problems or mention of bad dreams.

Expenses

Document routine expenses in the journal. This might include the cost of doctor visits, childcare, tuition, school and extracurricular activities, lessons, clothing purchases and special events such as vacations and holiday trips. Keep copies of receipts. This information can help you understand the true cost of raising a child and counter any allegations that you failed to financially support your child.

How Journals Can Become Useful in Child Custody Disputes

Child custody battles can extend for months and even for years after a divorce is final, particularly when the non-custodial parent feels aggrieved and makes it a life goal to change the custody arrangement. A journal can enhance a parent's credibility with a judge or parenting investigator and demonstrate a continuous and meaningful relationship between a parent and child.

For example, if you want to claim the other parent failed to exercise visitation rights with the child on 12 occasions, you will be able to provide specific dates. By including names of teachers, doctors, coaches, counselors, and other important people who have seen you and your child together, you should be able to more quickly obtain supporting affidavits that include specific facts and back up your journal entries.

Engaging in a child custody battle is frustrating and emotionally draining. Keeping a journal can help you to feel more in control and improve your negotiating position. The journal can provide a wealth of information to your attorney increasing his or her efficiency and ability to build a strong case.

Keeping a journal may at first appear to be a substantial chore. However, once you establish a routine, journaling often becomes second nature. You may never find yourself in a situation requiring reliance on the journal, but if you are well prepared by diligently maintaining a daily record, you will increase your chances of prevailing in a custody dispute. If you have a child custody dispute, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a free consultation.

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