Child custody and visitation is often one of the most hotly contested parts of a divorce. Once you have a temporary order in place, it is important that you carefully detail everything about your parenting plan. Documentation about this can be important evidence in your case. It can help you seek more time (if you are the parent with visitation) or reduce the other parent’s time (if you are the custodial parent).
Why You Need to Track Visitation as the Custodial Parent
If you are the parent the child is residing with most of the time, it is important that you keep detailed records about visitation. If you interfere with visitation, are frequently late for drop offs, withhold visitation, or even prevent your child from having a phone or video call scheduled through the court order, you can be held in contempt of court. Therefore, you will want to create a record that shows you were completely compliant and did your part to ensure visitation happened. This can help you refute any false accusations your spouse might make.
It is also important to create a record so that you have proof if the other parent does not fully utilize their scheduled time. If they arrive late, return your child early, or simply don’t show up, the record can be used to modify or reduce the visitation they are legally entitled to. Failure to regularly use all the scheduled time is a persuasive reason to reduce the schedule to a time that more closely matches the amount of time the noncustodial parent can devote to visitation.
Why You Need to Track Visitation as the Noncustodial Parent
As the parent utilizing visitation, you want to create a record that shows you fully embraced the time you were granted and used every minute of it. This will show that you make good use of the time you’ve been given and that, at the minimum, it should be continued or hopefully expanded. You also want to show any interference by the other parent, such as dropping your child off late or cutting your time short, or even refusing to allow visitation at all, which can help you get more time with your child.
How to Track Visitation
The most basic and straightforward way to track visitation is to simply keep a calendar with accurate start and end times for all visitation, phone calls, and video chats. It can be helpful to keep this information on a separate calendar and highlight or use color to indicate instances where your spouse did not follow the plan as written. You can also use a co-parenting app that will have your schedule preloaded. Some allow you to make notes in it. Remembering to track all of this can take some attention and time, but it will likely prove to be a very useful record as you seek a parenting plan that is most beneficial to you.
Other Items to Track
In addition to simply keeping track of when visitation occurs and how long it lasts, you should be creating a robust record of just about everything involving your child. You should:
- Keep all emails, texts, and chats with your child and those with your spouse about your child
- Keep all photos or videos of your child that you take during your time together
- Keep all documents, forms, receipts, and paperwork involving your child, including anything sent home from school
- Actively photograph or video your child at the start and end of visitation if you want to show the other parent is not taking good care of the child or is abusing or neglecting them or to prove that you are not abusing or neglecting them
- Videotape anything your child says about the other parent, as long as it is not coached or done on an excessive basis
- Make notes about every single phone call, appointment, or contact you have with anyone who is involved with your child, including medical care providers, educators, sitters or care providers, mental health providers, and more
- Track every request you make of your spouse or anyone involved in your child’s life for information, details, or documentation and noting if you receive what you request
- Detail everything you do to care for your child daily, including bathing, laundry, meals, help with homework, playing, reading, dispensing medication, getting up in the night, transportation, and more
- Video yourself detailing interactions that just happened with your spouse about your child. A contemporaneous recording like this ensures you capture all of the details, as well as the emotion involved in the moment. This can be useful, such as if your spouse refuses to let your child go with you on your scheduled visitation time
- Request you or your spouse to change or adjust visitation times. This can be used to show your spouse is unreliable or that you are very helpful and compliant
Without a clear record of what is actually happening with visitation, the court will assume that there are absolutely no problems at all. Keeping a detailed record ensures that you can provide the court with specifics and actual examples of issues and problems impacting the parenting plan.