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Document

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I read often in this forum that we should document, document, document.

 

What exactly does that look like? What exactly is a judge looking for?

 

ATM I've started a daily journal with bullet points in a Word doc. I mention the times my DCs father sees them, times he leaves, arguments we have, things he says, threats he makes, times we see his side of the family, etc. DD is 6 months and he's never cut her nails or given her a bath, but helped me bathe her twice, I think. Do I need to document those types of things as well. I'm not sure how much detail is necessary. Am I to write word for word? It's time consuming and I don't always remember everything.


Can you all be a little more specific? Perhaps provide a sample of what your documentation looks like?

 

My DCs father and I have been co-parenting since around the time that DD was conceived. We have a 2 year old DS as well. We basically spend every day together, whether it be at his house or mine, so that we are both able to spend as much time with the kids as possible. Co-parenting this way is no longer working for me and I'm preparing for things to get to the point where I have to file for custody. I filed once when DS was about 6 months but withdrew the application. And 3 months ago I went back to court to get the paperwork and met with a counselor but have yet to actually file. There is a history of abuse. Almost daily verbal/mental abuse continues, but it is nothing that I don't see through and hold him accountable for.

 

Any info helps.

post #2 of 17

As much detail as possible - anything you notice. Toenail cutting included. It may not end up being helpful at all. But in my experience, I am so incredibly grateful I did. It also largely depends on the type of person the father is. Is he vindictive? Is he known to exagerate his good side? Are his memories distorted? Is he honest? Do you expect he will fight you over this? If so, then as much detail as you can.

 

It will be used in your affidavit. Having dates and details really help to make your affidavit credible, especially considering that his will likely be written off the top of his head. you will have dates and number of times, etc. 

 

I should add, though, that I've been told that some judges (or states?) don't put much weight at all on the affidavits. My experience so far was a child protection issue and in that situation my affidavit was clearly very weighted. But it wasn't for custody.... yet.

 

Good luck!

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for responding lilgreen. I've followed some of your posts and have been inspired by you.

post #4 of 17

I documented everything.  He had never given a bath, cut toe nails, put them to bed at night, never took them to school or daycare (daycare thought he was make believe because they had never seen him), etc and my kids were 3 and 6 at the time of my divorce.  He said sexually explicit things to them.  Once he started executing his visitation, he routinely put my youngest daughter's life in danger, due to her food allergies, asthma, not following medical directions, etc.

 

Neither the judge nor the law guardian cared one iota about any documentation or about any thing he did or didn't do.  Even to the point of claiming I lied or that I was the one who did whatever action it was.  They just gave him whatever time he wanted with the kids and we ended up close to 50/50.  The only reason it isn't 50/50 is because 2 of his evenings are not overnights because he works to early the next morning.  To every issue, including putting my daughter's life in danger, the law guardian just said "They'll adjust".  The director at my youngest daughter's Montessori school was so concerned she even wrote a letter about the negative effects of Dad's visitation time on her behavior when she was back at school after he dropped her off.  No one cared but me.

 

So just because you document, don't expect that to mean that anything will come of it.  But still document in case you do get a judge or law guardian who actually does care about putting the kids first.
 

post #5 of 17

We saw a judge to get things moving. He basically lectured us for 15 minutes about how he hated the affidavits.  One spouse would go on about how bad the other spouse was, then the second spouce would defend themselves and have a bunch of affidatives about how bad the first spouce was, he always ended up not liking either spouce.  So, I guess if your going to do it, be carefull, factual, leave emotion out.

post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by thispathisme View Post

Thanks for responding lilgreen. I've followed some of your posts and have been inspired by you.

Aw, thanks thispathisme. I'm always likewise inspired by other women who have chosen this path, knowing it will be brutally painful and horrible in so many ways. So many divorces these days is a symptom of so many problems. But as women we are now freer than ever to take control of our lives and to choose how we will and will not be treated. I wish you strength and serenity.  xo

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies. These are some things to consider. I'm not sure how much of this is different in Canada (where I reside), but definitely food for thought.

 

I really don't want to keep my children away from their father, but I'm also aware that ex uses his mother as a crutch and I'm not willing to lose out on time with my DCs because she is with them. I am hopeful that he will step up to the plate.

post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by thispathisme View Post

Thanks for the replies. These are some things to consider. I'm not sure how much of this is different in Canada (where I reside), but definitely food for thought.

 

I really don't want to keep my children away from their father, but I'm also aware that ex uses his mother as a crutch and I'm not willing to lose out on time with my DCs because she is with them. I am hopeful that he will step up to the plate.

I'm in Canada. I feel the same about my X and his mother. His mother is doing most of the day-to-day parenting. She does all the housework, cooking, and shopping for him, too. Must be nice to have a live-in maid (she sleeps on his couch when he has the kids).

post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by thispathisme View Post

 

I really don't want to keep my children away from their father, but I'm also aware that ex uses his mother as a crutch and I'm not willing to lose out on time with my DCs because she is with them. I am hopeful that he will step up to the plate.

You need a right of first refusal clause. ie. when it's clear that he cannot be with the kids, then it is your right to parent them, not Grandma's.  It is still your right to insist that he give you the kids when he can't see them.  You don't need a court order to insist on that.  I would get it very clear in your mind what sort of schedule you want....then set about making it happen and establishing that routine before you file again.  ie if you think he's an every other weekend dad, then do that.  You have every right to do what you feel is in your children's best interest.  BAsed on the advice I have seen and received, I would get the kids accustomed to you as primary caregiver and show that you are serious.  And be sure to have a very child-focussed, valid reason every time you say no to x's parenting time.  And a very child-focussed reason to give him parenting time.  Depending on what province you are in, the age of your children can be a very strong determining factor in custody.  My youngest is still breastfeeding...

 

Do you have a schedule?  A sense of how much time they are actual spending babysat by Grandma when they could be with you instead?  Do you have numbers clear in your mind and have you calculated some percentages?  This was really eye opening for me.  And it is verifiable evidence that can demonstrate the children's daily routines and help to prove you were the primary caregiver.  The more witnesses you have to back you up, the better.  for example I share the children's parenting shcedule with mom and blind copy them on all email correspondence  from stbx.  I am leaving a paper trail in case it's needed.  I have also been told that judges get really annoyed by long email and text conversations and that it is best to be able to succinctly describe the pattern and the amount of time that x spends with them....but have this stuff to be able to back yourself up.

 

I also agree that abuse is a difficult thing to prove and to be careful with that.  Is your x a narcissist?  If so, there are books about divorcing them and information that might help you strategize and deal with what to expect from them.

 

One thing I want to also say is to be very careful about establishing a status quo schedule that sets up your X for 50/50 custody.  It sounds like this has been happening.  You need to prove that you have been the primary day-day caregiver and that his parenting time has been minimal.  If he is seeing them every day, then that could be seen as amicable co-parenting.   What is your current custody agreement?  My lawyer told me that the best thing I can do is to get a temporary court order immediately and urgently to get primary residence/custody....as that would set the tone for everything that is to happen.  

 

Have you consulted a lawyer?  If not, please find one asap and get some legal advice so you don't find yourself in a situation of having inadvertently set him up to win custody.

 

Hope I didn't sound bossy or anything!  I just get charged up when it seems like yet another man is coasting through life, abusing his wife and then getting all the glory, winning custody and never being accountable for his behaviour!

 

Hugs....


Edited by Alpenglow - 3/17/13 at 10:52am
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dot1 View Post

You need a right of first refusal clause. ie. when it's clear that he cannot be with the kids, then it is your right to parent them, not Grandma's.  It is still your right to insist that he give you the kids when he can't see them.  You don't need a court order to insist on that.  I would get it very clear in your mind what sort of schedule you want....then set about making it happen and establishing that routine before you file again.  ie if you think he's an every other weekend dad, then do that.  You have every right to do what you feel is in your children's best interest.  BAsed on the advice I have seen and received, I would get the kids accustomed to you as primary caregiver and show that you are serious.  And be sure to have a very child-focussed, valid reason every time you say no to x's parenting time.  And a very child-focussed reason to give him parenting time.  Depending on what province you are in, the age of your children can be a very strong determining factor in custody.  My youngest is still breastfeeding...
I am and have always been the primary caregiver. Even when we were doing the kind of half here half there schedule the kids were always where I was. I would sleep at his place to make sure I was with the kids. We no longer have that arrangement. I'm not willing to spend time with him anymore. DS is with him alone and DD is bfing and hasn't taken a bottle yet so she's always with me.
I've thought about denying some requests due to it not being in DS' best interest, but haven't thought of it that way when agreeing to visits. Thanks for that.

Do you have a schedule? No set schedule at this point. When I go back to work I know what I'll need but right now is up in the air. Trying to minimize driving for the kids but avoid overnights as well.  A sense of how much time they are actual spending babysat by Grandma when they could be with you instead?  Ex works from home so there is no way for me to know if and when he's working when he has DS. Gma is pretty much there ANY time ex has ever had DS without me there. Do you have numbers clear in your mind and have you calculated some percentages?  This was really eye opening for me.  And it is verifiable evidence that can demonstrate the children's daily routines and help to prove you were the primary caregiver.  The more witnesses you have to back you up, the better.  for example I share the children's parenting shcedule with mom and blind copy them on all email correspondence  from stbx.  I am leaving a paper trail in case it's needed.  I have also been told that judges get really annoyed by long email and text conversations and that it is best to be able to succinctly describe the pattern and the amount of time that x spends with them....but have this stuff to be able to back yourself up. I think I can get an idea of this after going through my notes.

I also agree that abuse is a difficult thing to prove and to be careful with that.  Is your x a narcissist?  If so, there are books about divorcing them and information that might help you strategize and deal with what to expect from them.We were never married, only common law before we sold the house. I'm not interested in dragging ex through the mud. I want what is best for my kids and that includes having him in their lives. Where I struggle is that ex seems to be trying to use the kids to exert control over the situation whereas I want to talk about pick up times or whatever and THAT'S IT, he'll go on and on about random bs and avoid the question at hand. It's because of behaviour like this that I'm thinking I need to just go to court and get it over with so everything is concrete and I don't have to stress all day with unnecessary communication.

One thing I want to also say is to be very careful about establishing a status quo schedule that sets up your X for 50/50 custody.  It sounds like this has been happening.  You need to prove that you have been the primary day-day caregiver and that his parenting time has been minimal.  If he is seeing them every day, then that could be seen as amicable co-parenting.   What is your current custody agreement?  My lawyer told me that the best thing I can do is to get a temporary court order immediately and urgently to get primary residence/custody....as that would set the tone for everything that is to happen.  

Have you consulted a lawyer?  If not, please find one asap and get some legal advice so you don't find yourself in a situation of having inadvertently set him up to win custody.

Hope I didn't sound bossy or anything!  I just get charged up when it seems like yet another man is coasting through life, abusing his wife and then getting all the glory, winning custody and never being accountable for his behaviour!

Hugs....
Thanks for your reply and sorry for the delay in responding. It's rare that I have an opportunity to do anything but read these forums. I'm very on the fence about filing for custody. It seems like such an act of battle. We have an appointment for mediation but I'm not hopeful and will be attending with my completed custody papers ready to file. I am aware that I want to be the first to file. I know he's got the paperwork as well. My gut says I should file, ask for it all, and then allow a loose schedule until I'm back to work and things need to bebmorebset in stone. I have to think on it.
post #11 of 17
12345
Edited by iamamamaof2 - 1/27/14 at 12:02am
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by thispathisme View Post
My gut says I should file, ask for it all, and then allow a loose schedule until I'm back to work and things need to bebmorebset in stone. I have to think on it.

What I've learned is it'a best to ask for it all and to not give up too much in the beginning.  The young age of the kids and your still being at home should work in your favour (so filing sooner may be better).   Specified access makes it easier for you to make/deny access decisions (in the best interest of the kids).  Specified access also is easier in the sense that it minimizes extra unnecessary communication.  It's good to include a clause though to have "other access as agreed on by both parties" (so you still have flexibility).  But of course you know your situation best and for some an open schedule may be better.  In my case I needed a schedule b/c XH was always breezing in with last minute requests and the kids needed a routine/consistency (eg the know that ____ is the day they see Daddy every week).

post #13 of 17

(Caveat:  I'm no longer a single mom and my chief experience with post-marital conflict is my husband's extreme situation with his ex-wife and son, who lives with us.  I didn't have too much conflict with my own ex.  So, I've seen how things look when they go well...and the polar opposite.  I peek in occasionally at Single Parenting because I've been there and because some issues - like the legal ones - are also relevant for blended families like mine.)

 

1.  Identify why you're documenting.   

 

- If your goal is simply to ensure you get custody, A) Go ahead and include mundane facts (like who trims toenails) in your log.  B) Don't worry!  Your ex would almost certainly have to convince a judge you were unfit, to get primary or even equal physical custody of children so young.  And if he accused you of being unfit, the automatic question would be, "Well if she's so bad, why have you been co-parenting with her, without ever once feeling the need to call CPS?"  You will be fine, Mama.    

 

- If you want to prove your ex is abusive, so he has supervised visits or otherwise has less than the basic, minimum rights of a NCP in your state, A) Consider minimizing the mundane details and logging only things relevant to proving abuse.  Interspersing abusive incidents with long stretches about toenails and shampoo might water down the impact of your log.  B) Think ahead to how you will answer his lawyer's question:  "If he's so abusive that his access to your kids should be restricted, why did you agree to spend so much time with him, with the kids?  Where are the police reports you surely made, about the abuse?"  There may be perfectly fine answers to that question, but you need to know what they are, ahead of time.

 

- Later, if the purpose of your log is to show he violates court orders, only log violations.  When someone eventually reads your log, in conjunction with a contempt hearing, you don't want it to look like you've padded it with a bunch of entries that don't have anything to do with contempt.

 

- If you want to protect yourself against accusations you think he'll make about you, include the mundane things (to show how you care for your children) AND jot down basic notes about how you spend your days:  approximately when did you leave the house and for how long?  Where did you go?  Who did you see who might remember seeing you?  Who visited you and approximately when?  It is tedious and unfair, to have to spend the time doing this.  But it's important, if you're threatened with false accusations.  

 

My husband stood trial, after his ex-wife turned in a 5-page log, with 30+ entries accusing him of violating a No-Contact order.  He rejected a plea-bargain (because he never would have had hope of getting custody, if he pled guilty), but if he lost the trial, he'd serve a year in jail (and REALLY never get custody).  Nearly everything in her log was "he said/she said" stuff, which was scary because she comes across very well to strangers, while DH comes across as a gruff, Italian guy with a thick moustache.  But there was one single incident where his ex claimed he followed her in his car and he was able to prove - without a doubt - that he had been out of state, in a meeting.  After that, none of her other accusations seemed very believable and DH was quickly found innocent.  But without such an anal log, it would have been hard to remember (8 months later) exactly which day - much less what hours - he'd been in that meeting.

 

- If you simply want to remember things and testify accurately, try to log only things you think you'll be asked about in court.  With little things, it may be enough to say, "I bathe Sally every day after dinner.  I trim her fingernails every Tuesday, after her bath.  To my knowledge, John's only involvement in her care is that twice in 6 months, he held the towel as I got her out of the tub," instead of logging each bath.  With bigger things - say, your ex not showing up for a visit - log each time it happens and whether he communicated about it, what excuse he gave, etc.

 

2.  Once you've identified your goal, log everything that's relevant to it.  Sentence fragments make it shorter and easier.  A judge or custodial evaluator might carefully read the whole thing, but might just as likely skim through it - in which case, its value will not be in the details, but in the overall impression that you took consistent, reliable notes (rather than throwing together a "log" the night before court.)  This will make your testimony more credible.

 

3.  Wherever possible, get secondary documentation.  (Not about nail-trimming.winky.gif)  If you're trying to protect yourself from false allegations, save receipts, movie stubs, etc., to verify where you go and when.  If you're trying to prove abuse or court-order violations, write down any witnesses or keep any paperwork that proves it.  Write down the name(s) of the specific daycare employee(s) who said they've never seen your ex.

 

Affidavits cannot be used in (a US) court, unless you bring the person who signed it, to testify and let the other side question them.  You can present affidavits, but the minute your ex's attorney has the sense to object to them (and he will), out they go.  (This sounds frustrating, but would you want to be denied something as important as access to your kids, based on a piece of paper your ex brought to court, in which someone allegedly said you were a bad mother?  But your attorney can't cross-examine that person?  And you wonder if your ex got his sister to write the affidavit and her best friend who works in a bank, to notarize it?)  So try to make sure witnesses understand that you may need them to come to court, and that whatever they were willing to write in an affidavit will not help you at all, unless they'll go to court and stand behind it.

 

4.  Consider keeping a detailed log, but making a shorter summary, to submit in court.  That could increase the chances of a judge actually reading it.  A sample (as you requested):

 

When my husband finally won custody, it was primarily based on his ex having moved out of state and then all but refusing to let him see their son, when he traveled there every month, to visit.  I kept a long log, detailing:

- Each time DH emailed his ex about an upcoming visit and what parenting time he requested;

- How long she took to respond and what parenting time she said he could have;

- Whether he wrote back to ask for more time and whether she responded;

- Exactly what days and hours DH was in town; the days and hours my step-son was not in school and could have seen his Dad; exactly which days and hours they actually got to see each other; and everything we knew about the hours DSS spent in daycare or with babysitters, while DH was in town.

 

DH took the log to court, in case he needed it.  But what he actually submitted to the judge was the following, which the judge quoted in her final ruling and which the appeals court also quoted, in its defense of giving DH custody:

 

"Despite advanced notice to (Ex) that (DH) would travel to California to see (DSS), (DH) was able to see (DSS) for only 47 total hours (not quite 2 days) out of the 63 days he spent in California between December, 2006 and August, 2007."  That was followed with a brief list of each month DH had visited CA and the number of days he spent there that month; the total hours his ex gave him with their son that month; and whether those hours were all in one day, or divided between multiple days.  

 

Reading it wasn't nearly as outrageous as reading all pages of the details.  But what DH submitted was concise, easily digestible to a 3rd party and it turned out to be very effective.

 

Good luck!  hug2.gif


Edited by VocalMinority - 4/3/13 at 10:11am
post #14 of 17
Re: custody - listen to dot. I did everything I could to avoid the inevitable battle. I made appts with divorce/co-parenting counsellors, tried collaborative divorce. Almost a year after this whole process started its looking like we're headed for trial, which won't be for another year. Beyond brutal.

Just file. If he's decent, he will show you that he wants to work out a good plan for the kids even if you file.
post #15 of 17
[quote name="lilgreen"
Just file. If he's decent, he will show you that he wants to work out a good plan for the kids even if you file.[/quote]

I agree. If he refuses to agree to sole custody you can have some ideas of carrots to dangle to help him be more agreeable. Eg you can agree to review it regularly as the months or years go on. Reassure him of your desire to have him in the kids lives. But. Try to get a court order (or separation agreement registered with the courts) to establish a strong status quo and protect your kids from future attempts by xh to win custody.
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
VocalMinority, thank you for taking the time to post. That really helped to put things in perspective for me. We also had our first session with mediation and that's been an eye opener as well. I need to focus on documenting time that ex has with kids. That frees me from documenting a lot of other nonsense and gives me a goal.

As some other PPs have mentioned, I'm going to try to establish a status quo now of what I will want in the future so that things are easier for me when it's time to make a move.

I've been too kind and have been guilted in to making some decisions and I'm prepared to fight for what I want now. It's not my job to make ex a part of the picture.

Thanks to everyone for your support and words of wisdom.

Like
post #17 of 17
I struggled with this too. I had to stop enabling x to shirk responsibility. He shows little initiative to plan in advance and will otherwise just breeze in when its convenient for HIM, as opposed to what was best for the kids. Sounds like you're in the right track :-)
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