5 Things You Need To Document for Your Child Custody Case
Issues of child custody can be complicated and challenging, especially if you and your ex do not see eye to eye. In order to make sure you have the best possible chance of obtaining the child custody arrangement you want, it’s absolutely necessary to prepare for your case ahead of time. When it comes to family law matters, what you need to do is gather the appropriate documents to present before the court. Showing the judge tangible proof of your bond with your child and your capabilities as a parent is crucial.
Before you start your child custody case, make sure you have the following documents and files on hand:
First and foremost, you must have a written submission to begin the child custody hearing. In this document, you will have to outline your position, or what you are asking the court for, and why. The written submission will explain what type of documentation you have gathered to support your position so the judge will have a good idea of what you are bringing to the table. The judge will review your case before the hearing starts, so it’s important for your submission to include as many details as possible.
Remember, your child’s other parent will also be submitting their documents to the judge, so there will also be evidence stacked against you. Your attorney can work with you to help you determine what your written submission should contain and when it should be submitted.
Make sure you keep track of all parenting arrangements once you and your ex split. This includes visitation schedules, a shared custody arrangement, or any phone calls or emails exchanged between your child and their other parent. Keep a detailed log showing how much time your child spends with you versus how much they spend with their other parent, and what they do during that time. If, for example, you take care of bringing the kids to school, homework help, and providing dinner on a regular basis, whereas your ex usually takes the kids out to the park once a week, you will want the judge to know about the differences in your responsibilities for care. Or, if the other parent only visits or calls a few times a year, the court may see this as evidence of an insubstantial relationship.
Also, if you notice any difference in behavior between when your child is with you versus when he or she is with your ex, make a note. Whether the issue is relatively minor (your child doesn’t like your ex’s house) or much more serious (you suspect your ex is negligent or abusive), noting the difference in behavior can mean a great deal to the court.
Any communication you share with your ex should also be recorded and submitted to the court. If you emailed one another to discuss parenting arrangements or a change in an upcoming visit, keep a copy of the email for your records. The same applies to voicemails, text messages, or any other traceable exchanges. If your ex is especially contentious or shows an unwillingness to compromise for the sake of your child, any evidence of such behavior should be submitted to the court.
It’s also a good idea to bring along other documents that show evidence of your child’s overall health, happiness, or wellbeing. For example, if your child had poor grades while they lived with their other parent, or good grades while living primarily with you, this could work in your favor. Or, if you have evidence that you correspond with your child’s teachers, doctors, coaches, therapists, or other important people in their life, show that you bear that responsibility. Also, written statements from these individuals where they attest to your relationship with your child can be used in court as evidence of your involvement.
If your child is frequently injured in their other parent’s care, make sure you include pictures of those injuries and medical documents from hospital or doctor’s visits after the accident.
In situations where your child’s other parent is unfit, negligent, abusive, or in any way dangerous to your child’s well-being, you need to include any evidence of that behavior. For example, if your ex frequently misses scheduled visits, or perhaps leaves your child alone after school with no ride, keep track of when and where it occurred. If you have a complaint or written record of these acts from teachers, daycare facilities, or voicemails and text messages from your ex, keep copies for your records.
If there have ever been any incidents of violence, whether directed at you or at your child, keep record of the police reports, 911 calls, doctor’s visits, and any official charges or convictions. If your ex has a criminal record, for any reason, include a copy of their record as well.
Dealing with child custody issues can be tricky, but if you prepare for the court appearance by gathering the appropriate documents, you can make the entire ordeal move much more quickly. Plus, these helpful documents can do a great deal to improve your argument and support your claims.
If you are dealing with a child custody issue, make sure you have an experienced attorney on your side. Contact McKinley Irvin at our Oregon office to meet with our divorce lawyers.