As in any trial circumstance, collect material evidence whenever possible so you can offer viewpoints other than your own, which is obviously biased. Daycare providers often have sign in and sign out sheets which reflect which parent dropped off and picked up a child. Doctors’ records, school attendance records, report cards, teacher reports, and receipts are sources of evidence. Journals and diaries can be useful, as well. For example, if you are separated and your wife always gets the children to school late on the days she’s responsible for their transportation, the school attendance records coupled with your visitation schedule can be evidence of her irresponsibility. If the teacher’s notes say that your child never has his homework with him on the days after he’s spent time at his father’s house, then this is evidence that his father isn’t taking his parental responsibilities seriously with respect to school work. Click here for an article about what to expect during a trial.
Think of people who could be witnesses to your activities with your child. If you are your child’s soccer coach, perhaps an assistant coach would be willing to write a letter or testify, if need be. Neighbors, daycare providers, friends, relatives, and everyone else who has seen you be a parent to your child are all possible witnesses. People who have seen you often, and know you as a parent, are the best witnesses. Any one example is not sufficient in itself, but when you have multiple examples that indicate regularity, consistency, and familiarity, witnesses matter. Non-relatives are better than relatives, for obvious reasons, but relatives can serve as witnesses, too.
You will need to be careful in how you approach potential witnesses, as many of them may know both you and your spouse and will be reluctant to get involved. Perhaps those who are reluctant would be willing to vouch for your abilities as a parent, without criticizing your spouse. Those who are familiar with your circumstances, have known you well for a period of years, and who are willing to speak out about inappropriate behavior on your spouse’s part are the best witnesses, but explore the possibility of asking others to come forward to help you as well. A handful of well-selected witnesses is more powerful than a laundry list of mediocre ones. Have your witnesses work with your lawyer about how to describe things accurately and adequately, so that your story is clear and convincing.
Some witnesses may provide a letter to the court supporting your position. An example of a helpful letter is:
I have known Jennifer for 15 years. We are neighbors, and our children play together and go to the same school. I am also acquainted with her husband, Ralph. Last year Jennifer and I served as room mothers for her daughter Betsy’s class. This entailed chaperoning on 3 field trips, assisting with 2 craft projects, and providing refreshments for 3 in-school parties. Jennifer is always willing to help….etc., etc., etc.
I also know Jennifer’s husband, Ralph. Last summer I saw him scream at Ralph Jr. when Ralph Jr. fell off his bicycle. Ralph Jr. began to cry, but Ralph Sr. continued to yell. I was concerned, so I went over……..I saw similar events on four other occasions, which began to make me worry about Ralph Jr..
Address + Telephone Number
Click here for more information on divorce trials.
Excerpted from Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001). For more information: http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com/.
For more information contact Peace Talks www.peace-talks.com
(C) 2008 Peace Talks Mediation Services, Inc.