By Rosario Burgos Santoyo
Cordell & Cordell San Diego Divorce Attorney
There is a lot to be said for keeping an agenda, especially during a divorce.
While the term “agenda” is used in this article, this could be many forms: journal, calendar, notebook, etc., so long as there is a place to log important events that take place each day with regard to your divorce and, in particular, child custody and visitation case.
Traditionally, a journal or agenda is a place to keep appointments and express your thoughts, but in this instance it is wise to use as a tool to track the many matters that are relevant to your custody and visitation case.
Divorce is an emotional time. It is difficult to remember all of the details of things that take place. It is even more challenging to remember specific dates and times when you are trying to refresh your memory weeks after the fact, in a high stress situation.
When an agenda or journal is kept, it becomes a reference for you to remember relevant circumstances that will help prepare for court. Here are four ways that keeping an agenda will aid you in your divorce case.
Demonstrate Active Parenting
When custody becomes an issue, the status quo of child sharing becomes very important.
Courts, in general, try to maintain the current visitation schedule and parenting time as closely as possible. This is what is usually in the best interest of the children.
When starting a custody battle, the court will want to know that each parent is involved and capable of the care and maintenance of his or her child. Unfortunately, too often, it becomes the quest of your former spouse to prove that she did everything for the children, they are helpless without her, and you are an uninvolved parent.
An agenda will help keep track of everything you actually do for your children.
Write a note in your agenda to keep track of when you picked the kids up from school, took them to ride their bikes at the local park, watched a movie together, cooked them breakfast, packed their lunches, etc.
By keeping an agenda and writing down the time you spend with your child, you have a record of actual visitation. This can also be used to refresh your memory when it is difficult to do so.
Interaction With Opposing Party
It is a sad truth that custody and visitation exchanges are sometimes the most combative part of divorce.
Emotions run high and, sometimes, this is the only required interaction you will have with your ex-spouse. Attacks from your ex-spouse may take place at this time, which can be either physical or verbal.
It is important to keep a record of what takes place when interacting with your ex.
If there is communication, either negative or positive, a brief description can be written in your agenda. Sometimes text messages confirm appointments or visits. Jot this down in your agenda so that you know when the communication with opposing party took place.
Also, if you notice a pattern, such as escalating interaction, you will have the supporting data documented to prove that court intervention may be necessary.
Attempts At Visitation Or Interaction
So often, when it has been difficult to secure your parenting time, an ex-spouse will deny visits, block phone numbers, ignore calls, and leave the home if she knows you are on your way to visit with your child.
When the court date comes, this ex-spouse will testify, “He hasn’t seen our daughter in three months!” That may be true, however, if an effort has been made, it is important to show the judge this lack of communication with your child has not been due to a desire to be an absentee father, but rather, because of an attempt at parental alienation on behalf of the other parent.
Your agenda becomes a source to document all dates and times that you made a phone call (whether or not it was answered), paid a visit, wrote a letter to your daughter, had dinner with her, etc.
If you called your daughter and she returned your call four days later, that response time will also be clearly noted in the agenda.
Some custody and visitation plans can become quite complicated. When an agenda is used, you can use the space not only as a reminder of the date and time of pick up, but where the exchange location is and who is responsible for transportation.
If your weekdays alternate in the custody schedule, you can write these into your agenda to make it easier to keep track of whose weekday dinner it is.
It will also help you schedule other appointments around your visitation when your parenting time is clearly noted in your agenda.
In divorce, child custody and visitation is often the most trying and difficult portion to get through. An agenda can help get you through the transition.