Documentation in Child Custody Cases

Increase your chances of reaching an optimum child custody agreement by collecting and organizing the right evidence.

Documentation Scope

Collecting solid documentation concerning custody, your child’s best interests and well‑being is vital in custody disputes. The legal process varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and you have a number of options for establishing child custody agreement. No matter which legal path you choose, the following documentation will help you get the best results:

  • Detailed child custody journal (visitations, calls)
  • Communication records
  • Your child's records
  • Financial records

Child Custody Journal

Keeping a log of your child‑raising efforts will give you the following benefits:

  • Obtaining tangible proof of your bond with your child and your capabilities as a parent.
  • Improved negotiation position.
  • Increased attorney’s efficiency in building and representing a strong case for custody.
  • Better understanding of your new life situation.

Start collecting your evidence as early as possible.

Child Custody Diary App on iPad

Parenting Time

Keep a detailed visitation log showing how much time your child spends with you (or with their other parent).

In Alimentor, you can document each visitation using the following fields:
  • Scheduled dates and times (if applicable)
  • Actual dates and times
  • Notes
  • Photos and PDF attachments
  • Disagreement flag
  • Custody factors
You will be able to utilize this information in court to prove a continuous and meaningful relationship with the child.

Parent-Child Calls

Keep a diary of all phone calls made between you and your child during the time when you do not have custody.

Use Alimentor to log date, time and duration of each call, including unanswered calls. If the other parent is not letting you speak with your child, log missed calls. Courts tend to take a dim view of a parent who tries to limit or block their child's relationship with the other parent.

Important Events

Document all events that demonstrate your ongoing commitment as a parent in raising your child, for example:
  • attending parent-teacher meetings,
  • accompanying your child in school activities,
  • taking care of regular medical check‑ups,
  • going on vacation and spending quality time with your child.

If applicable, you should also collect evidence of questionable behavior or judgment of the other parent, such as domestic violence, negligence towards the child, unavailability, frustrating contact, and/or poor parenting skills.

Expenses

Tracking expenses will help you calculate and understand the real costs of raising your children, including:
  • housing, food and clothing,
  • medical care (including medical insurance),
  • child care,
  • educational fees (including college expenses),
  • extracurricular and social expenses,
  • transportation.

Record your expenses related to raising your children incurred during the divorce to avoid allegations that you did not financially support your children at that time.

You can use Alimentor as a dedicated expense tracker to log actual amounts paid or received and to document missing or partial payments (reimbursements) and disagreements.

Keep receipts for all payments and purchases made for the benefit of your child in order to be able to prove what was purchased, when and for how much.

Tracking Child Raising Expenses

Communication Records

Keep copies of your communication and correspondence with the other parent if you discuss:
  • custody schedule and changes in upcoming visitations,
  • financial matters,
  • any other important parenting arrangements.

Child’s Records

Consider including in your files any important documents that are not part of your custody diary:
  • your child’s awards, achievements and school records (including report cards),
  • medical, hospital, and dental records, including emergency treatment records,
  • written statements from teachers, coaches, neighbors.

Financial Records

Take the time to evaluate your assets, liabilities, income and expenses. This will give you a clear picture of your financial situation and can help in preparation and presentation of a child custody and support case.

Remember that while each parent’s financial situation can play a role in child custody, the courts will ultimately make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child.

Documents to collect:
  • Tax returns, pay stubs, 1099, and W-2 forms
  • Bank accounts statements and brokerage accounts statements
  • Credit card statements and all other debts
  • Insurance policies
  • Employment records
  • Deeds, deeds of trust, notes, and mortgages
  • Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other estate documents
  • Pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement benefits documents
  • Registrations or certificates of title for owned vehicles

Best Interests of the Child

The term “best interests of the child” refers to the deliberation that courts undertake when deciding what type of services, actions, and orders will best serve a child as well as who is best suited to take care of a child.

“Best interests” determinations are generally made by considering a number of factors related to the child’s circumstances and the parent or caregiver’s circumstances and capacity to parent.

When collecting documentation, tag your records with the “best interest” factors (aka "custody factors"). Then you will be able to generate the “Best Interests of the Child” chapter of the report, limited to specific tags if needed. Give this document to your attorney to minimize the time needed to prepare a legal brief.

"Best interest" tags available in Alimentor:

  • Age and Health of the Child: The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child's changing developmental needs.
  • Health of Each Caregiver: The physical, mental, and emotional health of all individuals involved to the degree that such affects the welfare of the child, the decisive consideration being the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the child.
  • Relationship with the Child: The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each caregiver to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child.
  • Home Environment: The home environment of each parent or person available to care for the child, considering the promotion of the child's nurturance and safety rather than superficial or material factors.
  • Child Care Arrangements: If one parent has significantly better child care arrangements, then this may affect custody.
  • Educational Opportunities: If one parent is able to offer the child much better educational opportunities, such as a school that meets the child’s special needs, then this may affect custody.
  • Financial Support: The ability of each parent to provide financial support for the child, including any history of missed support payments.
  • Child’s Preference: A child’s preference to live with one parent may be taken into consideration, depending on the age of the child.
  • Cooperation Between Caregivers: The willingness (or lack thereof) of the parents to cooperate with child custody agreements and to encourage a continued relationship with the other parent for the child. The ability of each caregiver to resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child.
  • Interference with Visitation Rights: Evidence that one parent has significantly interfered with the visitation rights of the other parent.
  • Abuse, Neglect, Abandonment: Evidence that one parent abused, neglected or abandoned the child.
  • Domestic Violence: Evidence that one parent has committed domestic violence against the other parent, especially in the presence of the child.

Preparing for Court or Mediation

Alimentor reports can consist of the following chapters:

  • Custody Calendar: Calendar chapter contains monthly calendars with parenting time and calls. It also includes: timeshare percentage, total child custody hours and nights, total call time. Use the "Actual vs. Planned" layout to visualize differences between scheduled and actual parenting time.
  • Custody Summary: The summary chapter contains tables with events and totals: custody time, timeshare percentage, sum of expenses.
  • Summary of Expenses: The expense summary chapter shows the total expenses for multiple caregivers and children. Payments between caregivers can be reported as a negative cost for the caregiver who is assigned as the payee.
  • Best Interests of the Child: This chapter contains events divided into sections according to "best interest" factors. If an event has more than one "best interest" tag assigned, it is included multiple times in the relevant sections.
  • Custody Log: The log contains a chronological list of events. The details for each event include notes and photos.

Child Custody Report

Follow these tips when preparing documentation needed for court or mediation:

  • Prepare several shorter reports focusing on specific periods, topics and factors, instead of trying to generate one huge report with all the information collected.
  • Tag your records with the “best interests” factors to be able to generate the “Best Interests of the Child” chapter.
  • You can use almost any popular PDF reader on your PC or Mac to add extra annotations to the final version of your report.
  • You can export all Alimentor data records to a spreadsheet file in order to perform some advanced calculations or to create charts.
  • If you had been regularly sending Alimentor reports to the other parent (e.g. using email) in the past, consider using that fact to prove that the other parent was aware of the actual situation.
  • The search functionality located in Diary will help you quickly look up records containing specific notes and titles.