By Colleen Honquest
Keeping a diary of domestic violence incidents-both physical and non-physical- may seem overwhelming and a waste of time. The truth is, this type of documentation can be an integral part of your case when it comes to file charges for abuse, file for divorce, or even custody of your children.
Be sure to check the laws in your state for rules concerning what evidence is permissible in court. Keep in mind that custody evaluators and Guardian Ad Litems (lawyer for the child) may listen to recordings or look at written communications that the Court will not allow.
HERE ARE SOME TYPES OF DOCUMENTATION THAT CAN BENEFIT YOUR CASE:
- Verbal accounts of the abuse from you and any witnesses. This can include not only physical abuse, but also verbal, stalking and financial abuse.
- Medical reports of injuries from the abuse.
- Pictures of any injuries from the abuse
- Police reports from when you or any witness had to call the police
- Photos of objects broken or showing your home in disarray after a violent episode.
- Pictures of weapons used by the abuser to harm or threaten you
- Credit card statements showing hotel bills if you were forced to leave the home
- Screen shots of texts and multiple calls in a row
PROVIDE THE COURT WITH USEFUL INFORMATION:
The judge does not know your family or your issues, except for the information that is properly submitted to the court. Make sure to provide important information, even if it is embarrassing. The court does not know the behavior of each party unless there is shown to be clear evidence of a documented pattern(s) of behavior and this information is filed with the court. If you have an abusive spouse, you must take the time to record concerning behavior by your spouse in one place. If you hold back on important information, it may appear that abusive incidents never occurred and that you are exaggerating or making knowingly false statements. If you are accused of actions you did not take, the court will not know this information is inaccurate or false unless you sufficiently document and inform the court of the facts.
Here are some of the types of abuse:
- Isolation from family and friends
- Coercive control issues-social, emotional or financial
- Harassment and intimidation issues
- Restraining or Protective Orders needed
- Disruption of your relationship with your children
- Addiction issues with your spouse
- Abuse directed at your children
BE CAREFUL ABOUT UNVERIFIABLE INFORMATION:
The accuracy of the information you provide to the court is very important. Based solely on what you say in written or verbal declarations or testimony in court, the judge may make very serious orders regarding the other party, yourself, your children, and your finances. If it later turns out that you made false or reckless statements — even if you were well-intentioned — there may be negative consequences, such as sanctions (financial penalties), loss of parenting time, or restricted contact with your children.
WHO NEEDS TO DOCUMENT FOR THE COURT?
Anyone who is married to or divorcing an individual who has been abusive, controlling or coercive in the relationship.
You cannot rely on your lawyer to do this for you. Your lawyer is the legal expert and you are the expert on your relationship with your spouse. This is your responsibility. Simply telling your lawyer during expensive, one-on-one meetings is not recommended. Not only is the record of the behavior not all in one place, but to use your time with your lawyer to recount multiple incidents of abuse is a waste of your money and your energy. Do not let your ex-spouse continue to drain you both financially and emotionally. Document and put the information out of sight. Be safe about keeping your records where no one has access to them including your children.
Spend some time now to organize and document so that you can save time and money later by improving your lawyer’s ability to run your case.
Colleen Honquest, Divorce Mediator and Certified Divorce Coach
Founder, DivorceMD, LLC.