I want to talk to you about the importance of documenting child custody issues.  When I refer to child custody issues I realize that can seem like a fairly broad topic and I will explain further in this post.

As I have frequently noted throughout my site, parents working together to co-parent their children is usually the best option for the child.  But the reality is, we all know that isn’t always possible.

Sometimes parents simply cannot work together and at other times there are very real issues that prevent doing so, such as domestic violence, abuse or a parent that just doesn’t want to contribute or work with the other.

Whatever your particular situation is, it is important to keep track of any ongoing issues or concerns through documenting any child custody issues that arise.

Even when you have an amicable relationship with the other parent of your child(ren) it can be very beneficial for both of you to document things.  Don’t think of this as a tool to use against the other parent, but more of a journal for keeping track of important matters regarding your child(ren).

Some examples of things you might document would be the following:

  1. General behavioral information
    • How do the child(ren) behave before going with the other parent compared to coming back from the other parent?
    • How do the child(ren) behave day to day or in various settings?
    • Are there any other behavioral issues
    • Are there any behavioral issues concerning the other  parent
  2. Transition or pick up/drop off issues
    • Is the other parent on time or frequently late?
    • Do the children respond well to the transitions?
    • Are there arguments or confrontations at the transitions?
    • Is the time and place of transition suitable for both parents as well as the children?
  3. Medical issues with the child(ren)
    • Are there any current or ongoing medical issues?
    • What types of treatment is needed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?
    • Are there any contributing factors to these medical issues?
    • Do they seem to be exacerbated following a visit or time with the other parent?
  4. Legal Issues
    • Are there any legal issues involving the other parent such as civil or criminal matters?
    • Are there any issues of known issues of possible criminal involvement of the other parent?
    • Are there any issues or concerns regarding the current custody plan?
  5. Safety Issues
    • Are there any safety issues that you are concerned about with the other parent has the child(ren)?
    • Are there indications that the child(ren)’s safety is at risk when with the other parent?
    • Are there any concerns of abuse or neglect?
  6. Communication Issues
    • Are there problems communicating with the other parent such as arguing or lack of communication?
    • Are there concerns or issues with how you communicate with the other parent?
    • Are there concerns or issues with the communication between the other parent and the child(ren)?

The above list is just a sampling of some of the things that are important to document.  Please keep in mind that not all issues are bad issues.  Documenting child custody issues is not just a matter of trying to hold the other parent’s feet to the fire or to have something to use against them.  Document the good things as well, such as when you notice an improvement in behavior or when communication gets better between you and the other parent.

It is very helpful to use documentation as a way for both parents to be accountable but also to be informed.  In today’s online world it is actually very easy to have an ongoing journal that you and the other parent can use together for documentation.

My son’s mother and I used to just have an email account solely dedicated to documenting or journaling.  Our son was very young and we had 50/50 time sharing established.  We did not have the best relationship and so we used email as a way to keep each other apprised of important issues regarding our son.

If the need ever arose for us to go back to court, this documented journal would have also served the purpose of holding us both accountable so it does certainly have a valuable function there as well.

As I stated previously, I do understand that there are times when that sort of communication between you and the other parent is not possible.  In those cases, keep your own journal of events.  You would be amazed at how powerful it can be as evidence if ever needed, but also it is a great way of being able to refer back in time because you can’t be expected to remember everything all the time.

The email option is one way as I stated above, and even if the other parent does not participate, email is a great free option for journaling that also serves the purpose of having a documented time stamp of when the entries were made.  This is far more powerful than a handwritten journal because it could always be claimed that those things were written after the fact which may make them less credible.

Of course, if your only option for documenting child custody issues is through use of a traditional handwritten journal, that is still better than nothing.  The important thing is that you do document things and that you remember that there are so many more benefits to documenting child custody issues than just a way to hold things against the other parent.  Think of it more as an accountability tool but also a way to keep track of important issues regarding your child(ren).  I hope this has been a helpful article and reminder for how helpful and important documenting is.