The ABCs of Custody Journals

by Bret Reece

 

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If you’re serious about winning your custody case and protecting your children’s rights, you have to get serious about keeping a good, detailed custody journal. There’s no way around this. So ask yourself, "Am I willing to do what it takes for my child(ren)?"

Having a detailed custody journal at your disposal during a custody battle is a critical part of maintaining control during this difficult time. It serves to organize facts, dates, and thoughts. After the dust has settled, though, people tend to stop making frequent journal entries. Big mistake. While a custody journal can help you win (or keep) custody of your children and/or change child support amounts, it's not a magic tool that will do all of this for you. By knowing what a journal will and won't do for you, you'll be more prepared to use it to it’s fullest advantage.

Let's discuss what a custody journal won’t do for you. Many people are under the impression that if they write something down in their custody journal, then the courts will automatically believe that information. That just isn't true. Even if you can prove WHEN you recorded the entries in your custody journal, there’s no guarantee that a judge will believe them.

If someone tries to tell you that their product or service will prove to the judge that you are telling the truth, then they're not telling you the truth. Judges are smart people. They know that just because you wrote that you were denied custody on January 12th, that doesn't necessarily make it the iron-clad truth.

Although being able to prove when you created journal entries won’t prove their accuracy, it can show the judge that you didn’t sit down the night before trial and write a full year’s worth of journal entries. If you can prove that you haven’t changed entries after they were recorded, that can be helpful as well. A good way to do this is to periodically e-mail (or print and mail) your custody journal entries to a third party that the court will trust. Ask your lawyer if this will help your case, and if so, about ways to accomplish it.

A custody journal, first and foremost, will act as your memory before, during, and after your actual court case. When your lawyer or the judge needs to know details about parenting time that you’ve been denied, you’ll be able to give accurate dates, times, and descriptions if you’ve kept up with your custody journal. If you haven’t, you’ll be guessing. What if you guess and tell the judge a date and your ex counters with, “Um, no. I was on vacation with the kids on that date”? What do you think that will do to your credibility with the judge or your lawyer?

Here are some tips on getting the most out of your custody journal:

Journal often.  
Get into the habit of writing something in your journal every day. Even if it’s just something about the mood of your kids or your own personal thoughts, getting into this daily habit will help.

Categorize each journal entry.  
Some computer software allows you to categorize your journal entries, giving you an easy way to search for information later. For example, if you have a category called “Denied Time,” it will be easy to go back in a year and pull out detailed information about each time you didn’t get to see your kids because your ex-spouse was late or simply didn’t show up.

Just the facts.  
If the judge ends up reading your journal and you weren’t careful how you worded it, you’re going to come across like someone on the Jerry Springer show. Stick to the facts when creating journal entries. Stay calm and as polite as possible. Don’t write, “The idiot didn’t put the kids to bed until 11:00 p.m. last night.” Instead, write, “Pat told me that the kids didn’t get to bed until 11:00 p.m. last night because they were at the bowling alley and the game ran late.” Even if the judge never sees your journal, writing just facts in it will help keep you in the state of mind that you need to be in for this process. Being mad doesn’t help anything. Also, are your kids old enough to read? What if they get hold of your journal? It’s their parent that you’re writing about in there. If you use names and/or foul language, they’ll remember it forever.

Journal the good stuff, too.  
If your ex does something nice, write it down. If the judge reads the journal, it will help reinforce that you’re not just a bitter ex out for revenge. It will also keep you in the right frame of mind for the custody situation. This is a person that you’ll need to work with for the next several years. Anything that you can do to get along with him or her will help in the long run.

Talk to your lawyer about your custody journal.  
Ask if he or she would like to read it. Ask if you should periodically e-mail your entries to him or her. Ask what kind of information you should be recording. Here’s a big one, though. Don’t call your lawyer unless you need an answer to something. When you call your lawyer and he or she has to call you back, you’ll automatically be charged for that call. Most lawyers charge between $40 and $100 just to pick up the phone and call you. If your lawyer accepts e-mail, send him or her information that way. If you don’t really need an answer (you’re just providing information), make sure to say that in your correspondence.

Keeping a detailed, complete custody journal can tip the scales when it comes to winning your custody case. Keep all of these points in mind when you’re writing and you’ll be able to get the most out of this valuable tool.

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Copyright 2006 – Bret Reece
Bret Reece is the author of Custody Toolbox for Windows, an all-in-one custody manager for parents in custody sharing situations and custody battles.  You can read more about Custody Toolbox at www.custodytoolbox.com.  You can reach Bret at bret@fiveoclocksoftware.com.  (This article may be freely reproduced provided it is unaltered and the above information is included.)

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More Child Custody Related Articles

- Six Good Reasons to be Nice to Your Ex
- Five Common Child Custody Myths
- Four Tips To Ensure Divorcing Parents Do Not Engage In Alienating Parenting Behavior
- Helping Your Children Handle Divorce

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