Every separated or divorced parent of a minor child should keep a simple calendar and keep notes about when they have the child and when the other parent has the minor child. Each parent should especially make a note when there is a court-ordered schedule and the other parent routinely does not exercise the time they could have under the schedule.
How Tracking Parenting Time Can Help
If there is a court order for custody and visitation and a parent frequently declines to exercise their time with a child, their failure to exercise their time with a child could be a reason to modify the custody and visitation schedule. Whether there is a court order or not, when parents are separated, it is a good idea to make a record of time that each parent has each minor child. One factor that can impact child support orders is the number of overnights each parent has. When a non-custodial or non-primary parent has 121 or more overnights over the course of a year, they can get a discount on their child support obligation called a "parenting time adjustment." In a divorce or child custody case, sometimes a parent will try to get a schedule of at least 121 overnights with a child just so that parent can get the parenting time adjustment child support discount. In those cases, an accurate calendar or record showing how much time that parent actually exercises can be good evidence either for or against the proposed schedule. There is a child support law that says when a parent got the parenting time adjustment discount but does not actually exercise enough time with the child to have the discount, the other parent can go back to court and ask for the full amount of child support that should have been paid all along without the discount. In those cases, accurate records showing which parent had the child are very valuable evidence to prove that the child support obligor did not spend the time necessary to receive the child support reduction.
How to Properly Keep a Record of Parenting Time and Events
Keeping track of parenting time and significant events is fairly simple. All it takes is a small calendar or daily planner. A mobile phone app that allows you to keep notes works too. When there is a noteworthy event related to the other parent or the child, make a simple note about what happened. Include enough information about what happened so that if you are looking at it months or even years later you will be able to remember the important details. If the notes are made very close in time to when the event occurred, such as the same day or the next day, there is a special rule of evidence that allows such notes to be read into evidence in court if necessary. The law treats records and notes made at the time events happen as more reliable and trustworthy as opposed to sitting down and trying to think back and remember events that weren't recorded when they happened. If you use an app to keep your notes, make sure that your electronic devices are routinely backed up so that you can access the information when needed. If you use a paper calendar, try to use a calendar that can easily be copied or scanned. Do not not keep notes about your private life on the same calendar, and do not make derogatory notes or comments about the other parent. Keep in mind that at some unknown point in the future, complete strangers such as lawyers, judges and even child custody experts could be looking at your notes and deciding if the notes are reliable and accurate.