Thursday, December 7, 2006

Family Court: Steps in preparing for your case

Steps in Preparing Your Case


Immediately upon knowing you will be going into family court (or when you think you are heading into family court), one of the first and most important things you need to start doing is keeping journal of all significant events concerning you, your children, your finances and the other parent.

More often than not, each time you go to your divorce or child custody hearings you will need to provide a statement as to specifically what you want and justification for why you should get it. This written statement is called your “declaration.” The information in your declaration is taken directly from your written journal as outlined above.

In family court, some judges will not listen to what you have to say verbally. They will rely totally on what you have written in your papers and what the other parent has written in their responsive papers. Therefore, writing your declaration may be a very critical part of whether or not you get what you are asking for, which makes your journal entries extremely important to your case.


Stay away from bringing up negative issues about the other parent, it usually makes you and not the other parent, look bad in the eyes of the court. However, many times in response to issues raised by the other parent, you will need to respond by bring up negative issues. Likewise, many times the only way to show a substantial change of circumstances affecting the best interest of your child is to bring up negative issues about the other parent. However, be very careful in the way you bring up those negative issues.

Only bring up negative issues IF you can show, demonstrate or prove how it directly affects your child or your relationship with your child - otherwise, leave it alone.

The cardinal rule of bringing up negative issues is that you always, always, always, label the negative issues as “CONCERNS.” Example: “I am concerned that every time I go to pick up our child, the other parent is never at home. I believe this confuses our child and allows our child to believe I have not come to see them and do not care about them, which is simply not true and not in our child’s best interests.”


Your declaration is simply your very clearly written statement of what has happened, including all dates whenever possible, which clearly provide the court with the reasons and justifications for the order you want the court to make. Every request you make needs to have a reason or justification for it. The judge knows absolutely nothing about you or your case. You need to bring the judge up to speed about your case very quickly (they don’t have much time to review each case, maybe 5 to 10 minutes at most).

Whenever possible, attach proof or evidence which supports what you are writing. If you do not have the proof or evidence, then state where such evidence is located. Some ideas as to proof or evidence may be pictures of you and your children enjoying your time together, statements from witnesses who have seen you interact with your children, time cards showing when you actually work, letters from teachers or church leaders as to your involvement with school and church. Get creative, but be able to back up your claims.


You will want to ensure you have an exact copy of the court file, which you can get from the County Clerk at your family courthouse. Your court file is needed so whomever is assisting you can see what has happened so far in your case.

Also, there are many times wherein something which has happened before will prevent you from bringing up the same issues again - a review of your court file will let you know this information. Additionally, there are many times wherein new or different paperwork is required based on what has happened before - again, a review of your court file will let you know this information.

Therefore, you will want to keep and maintain an up-to-date court file at all times.


It is in your best interests to start getting copies of all canceled checks made for any kind of support you have paid and ensure you make copies of both the front and the back of those checks. Additionally, ensure you put on the check itself on the bottom left hand “comments” section that the check is for “child support” or “spousal support.”


Never, ever pay any type of support in cash. Why? Because there is no way to prove the other parent received the money if you do not have a copy of the other parent’s signature and deposit notations from your canceled check.


You will eventually have numerous files about your divorce or child custody case which you will want to maintain and keep organized at all times. Some of the files you will want to keep are as follows:

A) One file for all correspondence with the other parent kept in chronological

B) One file for all correspondence with your attorney and/or paralegal kept in
chronological order;

C) One file for all correspondence with the other parent’s attorney kept in
chronological order;

D) One file for all correspondence with the state agency collecting support
payments kept in chronological order; and

E) One file of all proof of all payments made for support (including both the front and the back of canceled checks).


Armed with all of the information as outlined in Step 1 through Step 6 above, you are now ready to consult with an attorney, paralegal and or support organization about your divorce or child custody case.

One last thing:

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until
it is faced." ---James Baldwin

By: Marvin Chapman

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Gary said...

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Freekin disrepectful.

I am going pro se in Family Court, and it is tough, it is an uphill battle against sexism in trying to get custody of my child. It should not be any more difficult for me than the other parties, but the system is provably anti-father, and I have to fight 4 times as hard to just stay in place.

Derek said...

Gary, I feel your pain. Where are you located? I am just starting the entire court proceedings. My son's mother and I have agreed since separation that we would keep things out of court, and apparently, she had an ulterior motive on the subject. I was served with papers about a month ago that she filed through a free clinic.
I, immediately, started talking with attorneys and found one a few days after being served. Followed by her finding an attorney as well. Its definitely gonna be a battle. But its probably one of the most meaningful battles we'll fight. One of the most unfair as well.
Good luck man.

Spokane, WA

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Anonymous said...

Hi all the awesome dads out there. I happen to be a mom and a stepmom. I have two great kids I love them both equally. I have to say that first of all there are some real asses out there that maybe the father of a child, but just don't cut it as a dad.
That being said I will start off by saying I have sole custody all the way around of my son if he does visit his father it must be supervised and he also can not have any over nights.Explaination, here's where the" asses" I spoke about earlier come in. My son just turned 4 and his father and I split up when he was 18 months old. After coming home from work and my son was locked in the dog kennel because he was misbehaving earlier. My son was sleeping in there his pull up was so wet that the little beeds inside were all over in his sleeper. I worked 12 hour shifts dayside, 6a-6p and I am not sure if the pull up was changed after I had changed it at 530a. I opened the kennel door and my son had a bloody nose and black and blue eye. Asses like his are who ruin the good daddys image. To top it off the cops were called on me because I told him that he should be ashamed of himself. He told me to fuck off and that is what the little bastard gets. I grabbed the closest thing which happened to be my Great Grandma's cast iron frying pan, and hit him with it, I had never in my entire life hit another human being. The cops showed up he gave his story how I just hit him with the pan and he didn't know why. Well the only thing that I had onmy record was a to fast for conditions when I ditched my car 16 years before. The cops asked if I hit him I said absolutely then asked if they saw the bloody towels from my son's nose or his black eye, they told me that I was being arrested I told them okay but I would like my mom to get my son to make sure he is safe. We were not married and I am A Social Worker and told the police officer that therefore sole custody goes to the mother here until the court date in most cases. The cop went in my house asked where the bloody rags were from our son, he played dumb, the cops found them in the garbage went into my son's room took him from his crib looked at his eye and nose called an ambulance,came out to the car opened the door and said he is lucky to be alive my wife would have killed me. Uncuffed me, Cuffed the ass and he sat in jail until just last week.
I also have abeautiful step daughter, her mother has sole custody with reasonable visitation given to the father. Well over the last 2 years my now husband has gone to court 5 times with proof that she is an unfit mother.For example, she manufactured meth in her basement, was caught with >3grams of heroin with intent to sell while my step daughter was in the car she was arrested for drug trafficing. so called mothers that don't prde themselves at the role that they were given because of these sexist laws should lose their children and be put in jail like anyone else instead of using the fact that they are a single mother and judges giving them a slap on the wrist and probation. A few years back my youngest brother got mixed up with drugs and really the wrong type of people, he ended up in prison for 5 years for a lot less heroin, not saying either were right, but the punishment should be the same. Okay, maybe I do just want her to meet Great Grandmas fry pan too. Keep your heads up document document everything with dates times save texts to use in court as proof