Keep records: The key to your success
When you have to gather evidence for the family court, for example to prove parental alienation, abuse or to support a custody case, the key advice is to keep records.
Why keep records?
Most people going to the family court have no experience of court hearings and do not properly understand what counts as evidence. This is what you need to know.
Evidence is proof that what you are saying is true. When you are trying to prove something in the family court you are usually talking about things that happened in private, where there are no witnesses and only you and the other parent know. To prove that what you are saying is true, you need to have kept a record of events, made as soon as possible after each event occurred and giving all the details about when, where, who said and did what and what the effect was on the child. Ideally support your account with photos of the event or screenshots of texts or other documents. If you don’t have a record of events, made at the time, you’ll find that simply asserting that something happened may not be believed. You need the detail in your records if you are to convince a judge that what you are saying is true. Just saying how upset you are by all that’s happened, and expecting the court to believe you and take action to address it, is unlikely to happen. It’s all very well knowing you have a problem but that’s not enough. We’ve all got problems but you have to be able to show you’ve got a ‘case’. In other words you have to show that your problem is of a kind and of a level of severity that makes it right for the court to sort out. Making your case then means you have to tell your story (in other words, give an account of the things that have happened) and provide evidence to prove that it is true. If you can do that, you’ll have the best chance of getting the outcome you want.
The best way to do this is to use ONRECORD to save and organise a record of events that are relevant to your case. Start keeping records as soon as you know there’s a problem. You never know what will be crucial evidence so try to keep a record of everything that happens that might be important. ONRECORD will sort your evidence by time, date and severity and allow you to download it is a chronology you can use in court or share with your solicitor. We give a lot of advice on our web pages to help you to understand what kind of events are relevant evidence in different kinds of cases. Download ONRECORD on the AppStore or Google Play and see how it helps you.
Why not get a solicitor to do it?
If you can afford to get someone else, for example a solicitor, to put together the evidence for you, all they will do, for a fee, is ask you to give them an account of the things that have happened, ask you for any evidence to prove it, and then record it in notes to go in their file. They will then convert what you have told them into a statement and/or chronology – a list of events in date order, which ONRECORD will help you do for yourself. That takes the lawyer time at lawyer’s rates to do something that you could have done for yourself with ONRECORD. Further, by the time you have got to see your lawyer, more time will have passed and you may not remember everything very well. Think how difficult it is to recall things accurately, especially when you will be asked when, where, what happened in detail, who was with you, who else may have seen it etc etc. Doing it yourself, by making your own records and doing so as soon after each event as possible, is easy and cost effective. The more effort you make to help yourself and the sooner you make it, the better your records will be, the shorter the time you will spend with your advisor and the easier it will be to get things sorted.
Representing yourself in the Family Court
If you are building your family court case or if you have to represent yourself in a family court, here are some links to what you need to know:
- What counts as evidence in court;
- What sources you can use to gather evidence;
- What evidence you need in your particular case, for example what is relevant to a child custody case, what is needed to prove things like parental alienation or what would prove abuse;
- How to use ONRECORD to create the chronology you need to support your statement.
All of these issues are discussed in detail in our blogs and on our website. Our website pages address numerous different situations and tell you how to gather the evidence to prove your case. With this help you can either represent yourself fully or at least do most of the work you would otherwise have to pay your solicitor to do. Remember that, even if you rely on a lawyer, they will still need you to give them a detailed account of everything that has happened so that they can prepare your evidence for you. So you might as well do the basic evidence gathering properly yourself, whether you are going to use a lawyer or not.
Winning your case
Winning your case depends not just on having a justified issue that needs to be decided by the court but on telling your story clearly so that the court can understand it and agree with you. The only way to do that is to have clear, detailed records of everything that has happened that proves your story. That is your evidence and it is the key to your success.