Guest Author - Kelli Deister
Unfortunately, there are many custodial parents that must take their children on unsupervised visitations with the non-custodial and abusive parent. Often, during these unsupervised visitations, the child is abused in some form. Sometimes there will be bruises left physically, while other times there are only emotional bruises. Either way, it is important to document the incidents in detail. This is what is called a paper trail.
There are times when a child is abused during a visitation with the non-custodial parent. Oftentimes, both the custodial and non-custodial parents are involved in legal issues and must attend court hearings. It is during these hearings that judges have been known to grant overnight unsupervised visitations with the abusive parent because there have been no records or reports of abuse occurring. There have also been no documentations of bruises or statements from the children involved. This is where the paper trail comes in.
A paper trail is something that is critical when dealing with unsupervised visitations between a child and their abusive parent. In order to show the court that the child is being abused, the custodial parent must document everything, regardless of how small or minor it may seem. For instance, if a child is screaming and pleading with the custodial parent to not make them go to the visit with their abusive parent, it must be documented. The time, date, what the child is saying etc. must be written down. Another example would be if the child came home with a bruise. The custodial parent should take a picture of the bruise, write down the visit time, and where the bruise is. They should also document the size of the bruise.
Another type of documentation would be any threats that the abusive parent might make to the custodial parent. For instance, if the abuser threatens to take the children away, it should be documented. Another example would be if the abusive parent threatens to harm the custodial parent or their child. What the abuser said, as well as the date and time of the comment made, should be written down. There have been cases where the abusive parent called the custodial parents home and left a threatening voice message on their phone. If this happens, it is my recommendation that the custodial parent purchase an answering machine that tape records the messages. This way, if there is a threat left on the machine, the cassette containing the threat can be removed and taken to court as evidence. Also, if there is any stalking involved, the custodial parent must write down the incident in detail. All information must be documented in detail!
A good idea for the custodial parent would be to purchase a special journal or book to be used solely for the purpose of documentation. This journal can be taken to court and presented to the judge. A paper trail will present the judge with all of the important information regarding the abuse occurring.
I encourage anyone going through this situation to begin creating a paper trail that they can bring to court and present to the judge as evidence of the abuse occurring. This will greatly help them as they pursue seeking the safety of their child.