Monday, April 14, 2008

journaling in texas divorce and modification cases

Okay, this submission will be a quickly, but VERY important. The subject is journaling. It can apply in divorce situations, but is most important in modifications of prior orders (i.e. taking someone back to court to get custody or change visitation).

A good bulk of my work is in the modification field and therefore I hear all kinds of stories and allegations. The problem with most stories and allegations is that they are coming from memory. This creates two problems, one they cannot recall the story exactly, or most importantly they cannot put a date on it. This creates unreliability in the evidence. It also creates a he said, she said scenario.

Client: "My ex never exercises his visitation and when he does, he is always late."

Lawyer: (Drooling at the excellent information he is about to get) "Can you get me a list of all those dates he missed and the dates and times of when he was late?"

Client: "Well, I do not remember all the dates, but it is pretty much a couple times a month."

Lawyer: (Rolls his eyes and sighs) "Okay well try to put something together."

What otherwise would have been excellent evidence is now pretty much worthless. When dad denies it, I have nothing to back up our statements. Too bad.

The way to combat this is to keep a journal of everything involved in your case or your child's life. If the parent is always late to pick up the child, document it. If the parent is constantly missing visitations, document it. If your ex says something particularly nasty on the phone in front of the child, document it. You get the point.

It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, just a simple calendar to refresh your memory down the road. Imagine you get in a courtroom and you are alleging that the other parent is constantly missing visitations. The other parent says that is not true, but does not really seem to have anything to back up their denial. On the other hand, you have your journal and know the exact dates, times and what was said for each missed visitation and can list them out for the judge in detail. Who do you think the judge will believe?

A simple little task, kept up with over time, can have such a HUGE impact on your case.

Two big things to consider however:

1. Do not be TOO detailed. This is not a diary. Remember that you may have to give the other side a copy of your journal if you use it at a hearing. If you know that the other side could be reading it, that will help you keep it simple.

2. Disregard this post if you are ever the opposing party on one of my cases!

The information contained in this blog is provided for informational (and sometimes entertainment) purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. I can guarantee you that I am not covering every facet of the family code, and there may be hidden gems in the Family Code that could make or break your case based upon your specific fact situation. No recipients of content from this blog, retained client or otherwise, should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice. ALL CASES ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE OF THE FACTS PARTICULAR TO YOUR CASE; THEREFORE YOU NEED A LAWYER TO DISCUSS THOSE SPECIFIC FACTS. I expressly disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the content of this blog. Talk to a lawyer first, preferably me, it is that simple!