When parties are in a contested divorce or a custody dispute, the judge often hears testimony from one party, and then contradictory testimony from the other party. Who does the judge believe?
That is why parties should gather and preserve evidence. Often, a divorce or custody trial comes down to which party is more credible. Presenting documentary evidence is a key way to be more credible than the opposing party. The ill-advised text message that the other parent sent a few weeks ago could go a long way toward proving that you are telling the truth when you testify that he or she refuses to be civil and co-parent with you. Emails, notes, letters, and text messages often make their way onto my exhibit list and, sometimes, they destroy the opposing party's credibility while dramatically boosting my client's credibility. Sometimes, people really do send emails that say things like, "You will see the baby when I say you see the baby," or "You will never see the children again." Emails like this virtually ensure that the children will not live primarily with the author. Therefore, save written communications of this nature. It does not help much to testify that the other party sent you a threatening text message or email when you cannot produce the text message or email.
Another way to gain credibility is to document major incidents with the police. Sometimes, a party will claim that the other party assaulted him or her several months or even years in the past. The obvious question is, "Where is the police report?" When the answer is, "I didn't call the police," it looks like the person making the accusation is lying. However, if there is a police report, it looks like the person is telling the truth, especially when the report says that the opposing party admitted the allegations at the time.
Written communications and police reports are only two of the many varieties of documentary evidence that can help you in family court. Receipts, bank records, monthly statements, copies of Facebook pages, and records of criminal convictions are just a few examples of other types of documentary evidence. In fact, more people have badly hurt themselves in family court with their Facebook and Myspace posts than I would have thought possible, but that is a topic for another blog entry.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing to consult with a lawyer on this subject, I will be happy to talk to you. I, Thomas A. Morton, am a family law/divorce attorney serving the communities of Phoenix, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Peoria, Chandler, and Maricopa County.