Step 4: Build Your Case
4. BUILD YOUR CASE (Start Collecting Evidence)
Now that you have your safety plan and support team in place, you’ll want to start preparing for your case and for court. One thing to remember with court, is that the court initially is going to have an hour or two to view everything you’ve been experiencing for years if not decades. Organizing the best evidence in the best way will help you get the best outcome in court.
A. Keep a Calendar – Go and get a calendar/day planner where you can keep a record of what happens in your home. Track abuse that occurs but also what activities or appointments the children have and who is involved in them.
B. Pictures – Make sure you take pictures whenever you can. Take pictures of you and your children doing fun activities especially ones at school or church to show your involvement with them. Take pictures of your house and their rooms to show the environment you’ve created for them. However, also make sure you are taking pictures of the bad things too --- holes in the wall and damaged door frames from his outbursts. Pictures of the trash bin showing empty beer cans and liquor bottles. Pictures of him passed out drunk on the couch. Take pictures of any physical injuries he causes.
C. Documents – Gather documents when you can. Not only will this give you a better idea of what’s going on but it’ll save you money long-term because you won’t have to pay an attorney or third-party to get the items. Ask for copies of medical records and school documents like report cards. Go into your bank and get them to print you copies of the bank statements. Request a copy of your tax returns for the last three-five years.
D. Inventory the items in your house. Go room by room and make a list of what is valuable or important to you. Take pictures of each room and of the condition of the items, especially right before you leave the house.
E. Communicate in Writing – Text messages and e-mails are one of the most common ways to show verbal and emotional abuse. Don’t block his number and allow him to text you. Every text message he sends could be used against him in court. Don’t delete any messages; it might be difficult to see them and they may trigger you, but the value of the messages may be irreplaceable.
F. When there is physical abuse, call 911 and create a record. Police reports can show a history of violence occurring and illustrate the timeline for the court. Hire a private investigator if you can afford it to document his behavior when you aren’t around.
G. Recordings – When your partner’s behavior is out of control, when he’s verbally and emotionally abusing you, or when he’s intoxicated, make recordings of it. Download a voice-recorder app for your phone and learn how to subtlety turn it on. In North Carolina, as long as one party knows and consents to the recording, it is legal to record a conversation even if the other person doesn’t know or says don’t record me. However, some states require all parties to know and consent to a recording so click here to see what your state requires and do additional research if you aren’t in North Carolina.