Documentation, Documentation, Documentation!
by Nicole Weyant
Book excerpt from Striving for Peace: Managing Conflict in Non-Custodial Homes
My husband and I have had to deal with unbelievable emotional garbage from his former spouse with regard to his children. She has used access to his children as a manipulation tool, to put it bluntly.
We have decided that our only recourse here is to gather as much documentation of this as possible, and to let the documentation speak for itself when it comes time to file for modification. It would be easier to just walk into a mediation situation or courtroom and just start talking, but the fact of the matter is that whomever we go to will not know us, or our situation, on a personal level.
Not to mention these people probably hear this type of thing on a daily basis, and it may just sound like two people who are just being vengeful with each other, and using the courtroom or mediation for "punishment".
This is the very last thing that we want to happen, so we have dedicated ourselves to thorough documentation of all communication between my husband and his ex-wife. The task has been interesting, to say the least. It has been exhausting. It has been tedious and annoying.
But, you know what? We could literally take the stacks of e-mails, letters, transcribed phone calls and other items that we have accumulated, sit before a judge or other third party, and not have to say a single word.
Let this be your goal: get it all in writing. Keep tight records. Lose nothing.
If your children are missing out on visitation time with one of their parents through no decision of their own, they need someone to be there for them in this way. DO NOT DISCUSS ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT THE OTHER PARENT WITH YOUR CHILDREN - EVER - simply be a silent advocate for their rights. You can do this by documenting absolutely everything.
It took us a long time to wake up to the fact that, in order to actually be able to justify the reasons for the modifications that my husband wanted written into the visitation agreement, we would need back up - and lots of it.
It seems that being the non-custodial parent sometimes automatically tips the scales of justice slightly against you in our society. Again - sad, but true. Our "word" on the things that have happened would simply not be enough. So we began thorough documentation.
By thorough, I mean we keep a phone log of all telephone visitation attempts my husband makes. We keep the long distance bills as back up. We transcribe all telephone calls. We keep every single, solitary e-mail. We keep every receipt for mail sent. We keep every receipt for gifts, packages, etc. sent to the boys.
Basically, anything that confirms my husband is making efforts to be involved with his sons, we keep. Unfortunately, this is usually met with interference or criticism from his ex-wife, which we also keep. There desperately needs to be change - and all of this shows that fact quite clearly.
I will share with you exactly how our whole system is set up, in hopes to spare you a few months of "getting your act together", which is how long it took us.
We have one of those little file boxes that looks like a milk crate with the hanging folders. This is good, because you won't always be standing right beside your desk or filing cabinet when you need to go over things with your spouse. You can pick it up, along with your cup of coffee, and head to the den to relax and review. My husband and I highly advocate this method of going over things together. The desk is just too formal, and we really talk, so best to get comfy. Not to mention, if the situation ever arose that you needed to bring all of your documentation to mediation, an attorney, etc., it would already be ready to go. It's small, light and mobile. Go with the crate thing, and thank me later.
Inside the crate file box, we have six folders, give or take a couple for "overflow". There is at least one each for:
- Letters, etc.,
- Child Support Info.,
- Telephone Log,
- Receipts for Items Sent
- and Certified Mail Copies.