Safeguarding Co-Parenting Documentation in a Divorce During the Pandemic
Divorce proceedings in family courts have slowed considerably since shelter-in-place orders began taking effect, making it hard for cases in-process to continue and even harder for many new or returning cases. Given the backlog that is building up, it could take several months before courts get to the divorce cases in the queue. While many who want to keep divorce proceedings moving during the pandemic are turning to mediation, there are always cases that require some degree of courtroom litigation.
Given these delays, timely documentation of co-parenting communications, decisions, and agreements becomes even more critical. With all the stress and uncertainty of a pandemic, it is not unreasonable to think that you may have difficulty recalling specifics if asked to do so several months from now.
Why Organized Documentation is Critical
Although it is tedious and may seem excessive, maintaining organized records of communication between you and your co-parent can prove to be very valuable. Not only does this documentation provide an objective view of how you and your co-parent worked together to arrive at decisions, it demonstrates your accountability and responsibility, which could help also help defend your position in a dispute.
Documentation is beneficial in other ways, as well. Specifically, it helps you and the family law professionals you work with identify the presence of more serious issues such as coercive control or harassment.
What You Should Be Documenting
Keep records of about anything related to co-parenting such as:
- Parenting and visitation schedules and change requests
- Child support payments
- Shared parenting expenses
- Details about your child’s health and wellbeing
- Conversations with your co-parent via email, text, online messaging, phone, etc.
- Incidents such as late pickups or disregard for COVID-19 precautions
- Raised concerns about your child’s behavior or health
Be as consistent as you can with your record keeping. The longer you wait to document something, the more difficult it may be to recall details like dates, times, and other vital specifics when a dispute arises or the courts reopen. Vague records won’t be as compelling to a Judge.
Apart from your co-parenting communication records, keep a personal parenting log with details about your routines, challenges, and interactions with your co-parent. Although this is obviously not as objective as documented conversations, these personal notes can speak to the effort you put into ensuring your child remains safe during the pandemic. If you’re asked to defend a choice you made on your own, your notes could help to support your decision.
Safeguarding Your Documentation
Communicate with your co-parent in writing as often as possible. Written records that are properly documented will provide a straightforward narrative to follow. Save copies of any emails and texts, and take notes about calls and face-to-face interactions. Similar to your emails and texts, make copies of any physical documents like important expense receipts or handwritten notes.
If you are storing records on your personal computer or phone, store copies on at least one other device that you can keep protected. Your duplicated records could turn out to be immensely helpful if something happens to your primary device. Establish a method of organizing your records in such a way that makes specific information easy to locate as soon as you need it. Be consistent about using the same organizational method across all of the devices on which you’re storing data.
Another option for safeguarding your documentation is to store it in a secure online platform through an account that only you can access. In this situation, be sure to update your account passwords or start using new accounts or communication platforms entirely. Taking precautions to ensure that the platform you’re using is secure and that no unauthorized parties can access your records is absolutely crucial when storing your records online.
Using an online co-parenting platform like OurFamilyWizard to manage your communication is a simple way to ensure that your records are secured and thoroughly documented. On OurFamilyWizard, co-parents have separate accounts that are connected within a private family forum. All messages, expense requests, parenting schedules, and any other entries created by either parent within the platform are saved and properly organized, making it easy to find specific details as needed.
Documentation can help you avoid a lengthy, litigious divorce, and it can often keep families out of court entirely in certain situations. Talk to your attorney or other family law practitioners you work with about any other precautions to take related to your divorce documentation.