How detailed does documentation need to be?

Q. You know how the advice to clients is to document interactions and exchanges?  Well, how is that used?  I feel like I’ve written so much and don’t know how to synthesize it or make it less cumbersome for myself to write out.  Is demeanor important, what he says/does, how our kids appear, or just a date and cut-and-dry description of the events?

A. The documentation is used for different purposes which makes it hard.  If you are still living in the same home, documenting interactions may become necessary to help prepare a detailed affidavit in support of a motion to vacate the home. This is where you need a very detailed account of interactions because you will need to recall what was said, who was there, the tone and demeanor and how you felt / what you did as a result of the interaction and how your children behaved.  The standard for a motion to vacate a home is difficult to meet. You need to show the judge in a short and busy motion session that there is risk to your health and welfare and potentially that of minor children for the two of you to continue living under one roof.

The same is true if you are documenting parenting exchanges and there are negative interactions between the parents at the times of pickup/drop offs.

If a Guardian Ad Litem investigation takes place, you will be interviewed. Having notes to review in advance of the interview which are enough to jog your memory is sufficient.  You can even bring your notes to the interview if you are worried about remembering and you can ask the GAL to allow you to check your notes if memory fails.

If these are not the issues you face, documenting can still be important if your case does not settle and you are going to be deposed by your spouse’s lawyer and/or have a trial.  In those circumstances, having bullet point notes you took at the time of an event – including the dates – can make it helpful for your preparation to testify. Don’t try to memorize dates, having a general sense of when things occurred will suffice.

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