Before going to trial or undergoing a parenting evaluation you will need to have certain information, documents and exhibits ready in case you have the opportunity to present them.
You'll want to have these items on hand because they can:
help establish the fact that you are in fact a concerned and involved parent,
demonstrate that you are in touch with the details of the child's day-to-day life,
ensure that relevant information about your ex is presented to the court, and
ensure that relevant information about the child is presented to the court.
In addition to being useful and effective in court, just the process of satisfying this list or obtaining the items and information will lead to a greater involvement with your child and a greater understanding of the overall situation you're engaged in. In turn, a greater understanding gives you the ability to act or respond more effectively.
Conversely, a parent testifying in court who (for example) cannot even state what shoe size his or her child wears will appear to the court as disinterested and uninvolved with the child- not a likely candidate for custody. (Obviously, just because you may not know your child's shoe size doesn't mean you're a poor parent, but the fact is that in court, appearance often makes more of an impression than proof.)
Do not go to court until you have at least these items ready:
You should have a well-organized written log of visitation denials, including any telephone interference incidents. This could be the same event log we suggest that you keep, or it could be a separate record.
You should have a "year-at-a-glance" style calendar (preferably full-size) with different colored markers showing the days you have the child and days your spouse has the child. The calendar should also show any days where your parenting time was denied or interfered with. The Parenting Time Tracker could be used to make a nice, large calendar that shows parenting time distribution- just print out the Month pages and lay them out in a full-year format.
If you are the non-custodial parent, you should have documentation proving that the child support obligation is current and that there are no outstanding arrearages.
You should know your child's current height, weight, clothing and shoe size, and what kind of clothes they like to wear.
You should have pictures of you and the children at school, on family outings, celebrating holidays, etc.
You should know who your child's teachers are as well as what subjects they teach. You should also be able to show that you are familiar with your child's academic progress, and with any areas of difficulty he/she may be having.
You should be able to show that you have been actively involved in your child's schooling (or that you have attempted to be involved but were prevented). This includes things like attending parent-teacher conferences and school events that your child was involved in.
You should know the names of your children's closest friends. (Knowing their parent's names wouldn't hurt either.)
You should have photos of your home, including the child's room, bed, toys, and play areas (your yard, playground, etc). Photos of your kids with their friends at your home would also be good to have.
You should have copies of any previous orders of protection (TROs) or false allegations your ex may have made against anyone.
You should have copies of all paperwork relating to any domestic violence incidents your spouse may have been involved in.
You should have witnesses (preferably non-family members) to visitation denials and/or incidents of interference with visitation.
Have the names, addresses, and phone numbers of others (preferably non-family members) that see you and your child together and can describe your parenting style and the quality of your relationship with the child.
You should be prepared to show that you have others that can help you in case of emergency or child care problem.
You should be able to provide proof of whether or not the child is covered under medical insurance.
You should know your child's medical history in some detail, including allergies, major sicknesses, and any hospitalizations, emergency room visits or surgeries your child has had.
You should have copies of any Child Protective Services reports or involvement, including documentation on the final disposition of any incidents.
You should have copies of any arrest records your ex may have.
You should know your child's most-favorite and least-favorite foods, favorite TV shows, and any activities they are currently involved in (e.g. Boy Scouts, karate classes, Little League, etc).