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How can you help build a custody case?

When you're going through a divorce, you'll likely feel bombarded with more paper than you've seen in a long while, given our digital age. You'll also be required to provide records and documentation to seek spousal and custody support and determine how assets will be divided.

Some attorneys recommend that their clients keep a journal, handwritten or on the computer, to chronicle events. It's essential to keep that in a safe place or password-protected where your spouse can't access it.

If you're making a case for custody of your children, documentation regarding your estranged spouse's actions and relationship with them is key. Following are some things you should note, along with dates and times:

-- Any information you have about inappropriate, abusive or neglectful parenting, including comments made by your children or others

-- Incidents where your spouse didn't pick up or drop off the children as scheduled

-- Physical abrasions or disturbing changes in a child's behavior

-- Evidence of neglect such as dirty clothing or missing belongings

-- Major incidents, including verbal or physical abuse

All of these things, even if they seem minor, can help you and your attorney build a case for custody.

Evidence of negligent or abusive parenting can be crucial. If you document anything with photographs (such as abrasions on a child), it's best to use a good old-fashioned camera so that your spouse can't argue that the photos were digitally doctored. Your attorney can provide guidance on how to handle this evidence to help ensure that it's not thrown out by the judge.

Sometimes people tape conversations, either in person or over the phone, to back up their case. In New York, only one party has to be aware that a conversation is being taped. Therefore, you're within your rights to do so without informing your spouse.

Nonetheless, you should discuss any planned audio and or videotaping with your attorney before you do it to ensure that you're not violating any laws. You also don't want to risk your own safety or that of your children.

Fortunately, most divorced parents can continue to co-parent their children with full access to them. However, when you believe that this would be harmful, either emotionally and/or physically to the kids and possibly to yourself, you can and should work to make that case to the court. Your family law attorney can help you do that.

Source: Custody Preparation for Moms, "Documenting Your Custody Case," accessed Aug. 04, 2016

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