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What Your Attorney Means By “Document” [Tips and Tricks Included]

Posted by Andrea Worden | Apr 08, 2020 | 0 Comments

A legal battle is won by proof. 

Unfortunately, many divorces turn into legal battles, and proof becomes a necessity.  Your attorney's quick and easy word for proof is “document it.” But document what? And where? And why?

Documentation during divorce means putting whatever thought, picture, screenshot, argument, phone call, notes, emails, letters, somewhere where only you have access to it. 

One of the easiest ways to do this is to create your own email account and manage everything related to your divorce in this email account. Gmail, with all of its free features, is a very easy choice.

Once you have that new divorce email (for instance  [email protected]) make folders to get organized based on topics that are applicable to your case.  Such as:

  • Bills - anything related to bills - you pay, they pay, they didn't pay, you didn't pay, in your name, in their name, anything. If anything comes your way related to a bill, forward it to this email and move it to this folder. Or, take a picture and email yourself the picture and move it to this folder. 
  • Housing - anything related to the housing you have. If it's a mortgage, rental, whatever. 
  • Child support - receipts for daycare, food, clothes, etc. that all gets forwarded here. 
  • Custody - anything related to your children. 
  • Overnights - were overnights kept, late, children picked up unkempt or hungry from the other house? All that goes here. 
  • Medical - who pays insurance, doctor appointments, anything related to medical care goes here. 
  • Social media - if your soon-to-be-ex is posting unsavory things about you online, take screenshots and forward them to this folder. If they're engaging in behavior that isn't good for your kids or reputation, send them here. 
  • And whatever other labels you want. Make this as convenient, easy to use, and in your style as possible. You need this, so make it work for you.

How this works in real life is you open your new email account (that no one, and definitely not your spouse, has access to). 

If it's a thought or a vent, email that to yourself. 

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]
Subject: She sent the kids to school in shoes with holes and a tank top in the winter 

Body:

I can't believe she sent John Jr to school in shoes with the soles worn out and a t-shirt, even though it was 31 degrees today, and snow was in the forecast.  Here's a picture attached of John Jr when I picked him up from school. Here's a screenshot of the weather app on my phone. 

Folder: Custody

Make sure you attach as much as you can to help remember what was going on and when, because those details are important to the court. Then, organize it into your subject folders. 

Next, Go on about your day. Once something is in your divorce document place, don't stress over it anymore until you need to bring it up to give it to your attorney. 

Why do you document for your divorce?

You need proof of anything you say in a courtroom. Otherwise, it's just he said/she said, and frankly, you and your spouse could make up whatever story you want. Your judge is probably pretty good at realizing what's been made up and what's real.  It's your job to make sure you present the proper information to your judge. 

If you claim that your soon-to-be-ex never pays any bills when they claim they do, and you keep track of those bills, there's your proof.  If you claim they are never on time to pick up or drop off of children, and they claim they're always on time, the judge won't know who's telling the truth. But, let's say you start an email chain with yourself: 

 From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]


Subject: Late to Overnights 

Body:

Jane Smith dropped off John Jr 45 minutes late tonight. She was supposed to drop him off at 6pm. 

Folder: Overnights. 

Each time the other party is late or skips something, reply to that email chain. 

 From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]
Subject: re: re: Late to Overnights 

Body:

Jane Smith dropped off John Jr 2 hours late tonight, she was supposed to drop him off at 6pm, but she didn't come until 8:04pm. 

Folder: Overnights.

For court then, you could simply print out this email chain, and now you have date and time stamped documentation of how many times Jane was late dropping off John Jr. That doesn't mean you were telling the truth, but with enough instances and very specific emails, it should become more apparent what is really going on. 

What are some other ways to document for your divorce?

Calendars

Some clients have documented exchanges like that in their calendars. If you get a new email and it comes with a calendar app (again, that is not shared or viewable by anyone but you), you can make yourself a note on the date of what happened. Were they late? Did they skip altogether? Was there an argument? This may not be as easy to then export to your attorney as the email chain is, but it's still a way to have consistent documentation throughout your divorce. 

Cloud-based note taking apps

Another way to make notes is to use a cloud-based note taking app. Again, if we go back to our free email example, such as Gmail, and its useful Google Docs, you could organize your notes, write them down, and then download or simply share it for your attorney. This is also time and date stamped information.

Handwritten notebooks

Others go back to the old school handwritten notebooks. If that's your style, learn to carry a small one with you so that whenever you have a thought, you can write it down. The downside is that if you lose it, you've got nothing, and when it comes to digital copies, this is harder to maintain. You can't screenshot something and put it in your spiral bound notebook. 

Remember, your documentation is your PROOF! Don't rely on just your memory alone. With so much information to remember, specific dates or times or instructions, you're bound to forget something, or mis-remember it, which could then lead to credibility problems in the courtroom. Pick a style and be consistent with it. This will save you stress, time, and money in attorney's fees when you can present something that is simply organized and put together, rather than you tracking down all the information, or even more expensive, your attorney's team finding it for you.

About the Author

Andrea Worden

A number of qualities go into the making of a talented attorney; experience, training, and tenacity are just a few of those qualities. When you have been arrested and accused of breaking the law, or when you are going through a tough divorce, how do you choose the right attorney? You'll want to c...

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