The other night, I cozied up with a glass of wine and watched that buzzed-about TV drama Big Little Lies starring (and produced by) the ever-inspiring Reese Witherspoon. OMG… it’s a must-watch! You’ll laugh, cry (a lot, and then some!) and will be completely distracted from your own woes as you become enthralled in the twisted story line.
I saw myself in so many different moments throughout this series – in both the challenge and beauty of motherhood, the adversity of difficult relationships, those new beginnings and the steadfast friendships that get you through it all.
But there was one moment in the show when my heart skipped a beat.
The reality of TV
I wasn’t expecting Nicole Kidman to take my passion to the big screen, but there she was.
Spoiler alert! After a secretive struggle through the toxic dynamics of an abusive relationship, the character Nicole plays, Celeste, finally reaches out for help from a marriage counsellor.
In just a few simple words, the counsellor tore Celeste’s current view of her reality apart and helped her acknowledge the danger and damage that a toxic relationship was doing to her and her children. The counsellor saw straight through Celeste’s shame and guilt-ridden excuses. Then she did something that made me gasp: she told Celeste to start documenting absolutely everything – NOW. The emotion in Celeste’s face said it all!
The counsellor (my new hero) urged her to photocopy statements and personal documents, take photos of evidence (including bruises and injuries) and start making an exit plan. Plus, she encouraged her to share the abuse with a loyal friend to have a respectable witness to call on if things got nasty.
I was instantly reminded of the first day I met with my lawyer. “Make sure you are documenting EVERYTHING!”, she said with an unmistakably serious tone. Looking back, I honestly feel this statement struck me down harder than the day my marriage fell apart. It made the reality of becoming a divorcee with two under two so (scarily) real.
Now, in any other situation, documenting in exactly the way the counsellor advised Celeste would be a breeze. But when your personal safety, finances, emotions and especially your children’s future is in the balance (and knowing you only have one go at this), it’s a whole different ball game.
When it came to documenting, here’s what I wished I knew at the start of my journey:
How to get started.
How to document vital information as it happened.
How to maintain a positive attitude.
A solution for this wasn’t out there when I separated from my husband, so I decided to build it myself.
Let’s break it down:
1. What to document
All relevant communication (between you and your ex, lawyers, children’s school, doctors etc., in person, on the phone, SMS, email, social media etc.)
Important dates and events
Any notable incidents
Evidence (turn ON Location Services and date stamp in iPhotos)
Financial commitments and expenses (relevant to the children, support payments, and bills etc)
Visitation schedules for children
Children’s health, well-being and behaviour
Commitments (promises) made by the other parent, and any defaults (financial or in person)
Legal representative’s meeting notes, correspondence, call times etc to cross check their bills
2. How to organise
Use Hello Mojo’s app! Otherwise, use an A4 notepad or a soft-copy document. You’ll also need a large folder for collecting hard copies documents or evidence.
Turn the track changes function ON if you’re using a soft-copy document!
Record chronologically (in a table label columns across: date, time, location, people involved, and then record details (a factual, non-emotive recollection). Make note where the evidence is located/stored. Lastly, tag the entry with a code for ease of reference later on eg. domestic abuse, children, settlement negotiations etc)
Stick to the facts. It’s tempting to blast your ex, but it’s best to use non-emotive language no matter how mad you might be. Use, “he said”, “she said”, “I said” and “then this happened”, plus the all-important, “here’s the evidence”. “I noticed this reaction from the children”. Sadly, a Mills & Boon novel will not help you in family court.
Link conversations as you go, particularly if a conversation bounces over multiple communications channels. If you start on SMS, then a reply is sent via email, followed up with a phone conversation, you should make notes on each entry to show the conversation trail.
Attach or make reference to the evidence’s location
3. What exactly is considered as evidence?
Emails, SMS, messenger or social media correspondence, phone logs, bills, video call logs, face-to-face conversation notes, photos, phone recordings (check the legal requirements in your state), police reports of domestic violence, witness accounts, meetings minutes or notes, a list of agreed parental commitments, proof of broken promises, no shows, agreed visitation schedules, financial records, professional or school reports concerning the children etc. If in doubt, document it!
4. How to store your records?
Hello Mojo has implemented multiple high-level privacy and security settings for the protection and storage of your records.
Keep your journal in a (very) secure location.
If you are keeping records on a soft copy (i.e. a Word document), BACK IT UP!
5. Other key information
Don’t tell: It’s going to be very tempting to tell your ex, particularly if they’re being difficult, that you’re recording everything in a diary. Don’t go there! You’re handing over your power and the privilege granted by having the notes in the first place… and could result in a subpoena if your case goes to court.
Make it official: If you’re documenting a serious event or incident, copy the text of this specific entry into an email and forward it to your lawyer for their records.
A private diary or journal: If you wish to document your feelings or your experience of going through divorce, this is where a personal, private diary or journal should come into play. Keep it separate, don’t give it to your lawyer and don’t tell anyone about it.
Your privilege: You own the privilege on information that you give to your lawyer; however, once it’s with your lawyer, they may advise that it should be disclosed to the other party. It’s up to you whether to accept their advice or not. To avoid accidental disclosure, get into the habit of always writing, ‘This correspondence is private and confidential. For my lawyer’s eyes only’ at the top of your emails, documents or evidence given to your lawyer. Better to be safe than sorry (just be aware that it won’t stop advised disclosure).
Children matter: If you have children, consider writing an entry about them once a month, including their milestones, achievements, events attended, what you have done for and with them, the other parent’s involvement, things they have talked to you about, beautiful things they have said, your take on how they seems to be fairing etc. Now, this is where you can pour your heart out.
Lastly, you need to accept the commitment to document – and believe YOU CAN DO IT!
As always, it’s better to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. And, fingers crossed, this little insurance policy you’re creating never has to pay out!
If you’re currently facing the reality of a breakup, separation, divorce, co-parenting journey or are a victim of domestic abuse, there is now an app to help you document absolutely everything – information, communication and evidence – so you’re ready for whatever legal obligations that may arise.
For more support and documenting tips, download my FREE e-book, 5 Separation & Divorce Hacks. It’s packed with helpful tips and advice from those who’ve been right where you are now. It will help you go in the right direction faster, and less painfully.
You’re doing just fine. Take it one day at a time. And remember, be especially kind to yourself.
Founder | Hello Mojo