One of the most difficult things in family law can be that he says one thing, she says another, and then a judge/commissioner has to make a decision based on which parent seems more credible. So how can you prepare for court so that everything doesn’t end up he said-she said?
First things first – don’t involve the children. Time and again parents want to submit information about how little Janey told mom all about how terrible it is at dad’s house. Mom will submit a lengthy declaration or attempt lengthy testimony about all the things she talked about with Janey. The problem is, this is not helpful and it’s not admissible. More importantly, it puts your kids smack dab in the middle of conflict, which is likely to cause even more emotional turmoil for both you and your child.
The most basic advice I have for you is to keep everything in writing. That can be email or text message, but something where you can print it off and submit it to the court if you need to do so. If your son comes home from mom’s house with clothes on that don’t fit and says he hasn’t taken a shower in 2 weeks? Email mom and address the situation. There’s a good chance mom will then respond, in some manner, and both of those emails can ultimately be given to the court so it can see the other party’s own words on the subject. It’s much harder to deny something happened if you have an email that says it did happen and the words of mom herself about the situation. The best case scenario here could also happen – maybe there is a perfectly good explanation for the circumstances and now you’ve gotten an answer from your co-parent without revving up a lot of litigation where otherwise the only way you would get an answer was in a responsive declaration. If, for whatever reason, a telephone conversation is had about any events, follow up that conversation with an email that starts, “Just to reiterate what we agreed to on the phone….”
Next: Facebook or other types of social media. People post a lot of things here, often that they shouldn’t. Did Dad post about how’s he been out drinking all night and then his buddy commented with a picture of the two of them doing a keg stand, all the while your parenting plan has restrictions in it because Dad is an alcoholic? Print it out; save it. Facebook posts can be submitted in court and just like the emails/texts you send, the other party is going to have to answer for his/her own actions/words in these circumstances. In the event Dad realizes this was a poor choice to post and deletes it, you’ll already have a printed copy of it.
Finally, keep a detailed log or journal. This is not going to be admissible as a whole, but it can be a great tool to refresh your own memory when you are writing a declaration or preparing for testimony. If nothing else, studies have shown that journaling out your feelings can help you process through them, something we all need when we are in the midst of a stressful situation.
1. Don’t involve the kids. Ever.
2. Always put things in writing.
3. The other party’s own words – whether in email or on Facebook – are words he/she will have to answer to later*
4. Keep a journal – even if it’s only for your own sanity.
* words of other people, much like the children, are not admissible. This is considered hearsay, so if you have a friend/family member/colleague who has witnessed something, they need to write their own declaration sworn under penalty of perjury or testify themselves at court.