How to Document Abuse/Neglect for Your Attorney and the Court 

(This is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of the book, The Life-Saving Divorce: Hope For People Leaving Destructive Relationships.)


In very troubled divorces where one parent lies frequently and refuses to play fair or follow the divorce agreement, it is important to document everything, starting right away. This includes threats, intimidation, stalking, "vitriol" (name-calling), and false accusations. This article will help you create a first draft of a declaration (at the least), or a Victim Impact Statement (if it's a criminal case) for your attorney to review and offer specific guidance.


What Should You Document? When?


Start documenting immediately. Don’t hit “delete” when a nasty text or threatening voicemail is left. I know you feel like you’re finally free and can breathe for the first time in years, but from day one, you need to start documenting all threats, name calling, and other incidents.


The main goal of documenting is to be able to “paint a picture” for the legal authorities over the case.

See examples:

  1. District Attorney's Crime Victim Assistance Center: here
  2. Victim Support Services here
  3. Just Alternatives here.
  4. Victim's rights here

Write it to illuminate the pattern of behaviors that are abusive without calling it by name. You do this to tell the complete story, not just listing actions. The more details you have, the better, because they will show the patterns (even if you can’t see them at the time you’re documenting them). You want to have enough details to be able to easily remember that incident from other similar incidents.

How to do this:

This might include:

  • Time/date
  • What each person did and said
  • How each action and comment made you feel
  • What thoughts or actions you or others took because of it
  • What your children witnessed or reported to you
  • You and your children's (or other witness's) feelings, actions, or words in response.


Both facts and feelings are important to document! If he/she punched the wall beside you and you were afraid he/she was going to hit you, document that. If your child was upset that their parent didn’t pick them up for parenting time, again, document your child’s verbal, physical, and emotional response. This is a journal, with the specific purpose of keeping a record (not a bullet-point list of behaviors). As best you can, document the time and date.


In a high-conflict divorce, trying to survive blinds you to the fact that you must protect yourself. You’re so broken down after years of mind-games, you don’t realize you have to be on your toes. When your spouse realizes they can no longer control you, a lightbulb turns on, and they may try a wide variety of tactics to threaten or punish you.


Incidents to Document


  • Threats against you or your children. Example: “If you divorce, I’ll get custody of our daughter.” “You’ll never get a dime from me.” “I’ll destroy you in court.” “I’ll ruin you.”
  • Anger about the divorce. Trying to stop or delay the divorce: Not responding to letters, changing addresses without telling you so they can’t be served, calling your friends/family and telling them he/she wants to save the marriage.
  • Plans to sabotage the legal process. If your spouse says they will quit their job so that no child support is granted, keep this.
  • Vitriol or hate in voice messages, emails, or face-to-face. Calling you names, trying to ruin your reputation, accusing you of sleeping with everyone, accusing you of doing the very things they are doing. Saying, “If you were any kind of parent, you’d do this…” Or “You’re an awful parent, your child is better off without you.”
  • Stalking behavior. Driving by your house, standing outside your workplace, calling your boss, trying to get you fired, creating a crisis so you have to leave work early, bothering your coworkers. (Get coworkers’ statements in writing right away. Save their emails/texts and print them out. If you let time pass, they may not want to get involved.)
  • Not following court orders about visitation. Coming too early, coming more than 15 minutes late, not showing up at the scheduled time and place, picking kids up at school early and demanding the teacher let the kids out.
  • Calling your attorney and the judge names or accusing them of criminal behavior.  See this woman's story about how she was awarded attorney's fees to be reimbursed by her ex-husband after her husband repeatedly badmouthed officers of the court in writing.
  • Hacking your phone or computer. (This is why it may not be best to document everything on your phone.) Hacking is a crime in the U.S.
  • False allegations with no proof. (Your attorney will ask them in court if they have proof.)
  • Withholding child support. This is especially to be noted if your ex is also demanding you pay to get kids into expensive sports/lessons.
  • Financial abuse. Taking money out of joint accounts, refusing to pay support in a timely fashion (yet demanding you pay for the kids’ camp, sports, or activities by the deadline).
  • Constant litigation over small things. Note this especially if it is happening over small things, such as not making a phone call at exactly 5:00 pm.
  • Disparaging comments. These can be about your family, your sex life, accusing you of having sex partners coming in and out of your house (which, incidentally, proves they are stalking you).
  • Claiming that something is true when it’s not. Denying something that turns out to be true. Saying the kids finished and turned in their schoolwork (when it didn't actually happen), claiming they had spent a certain amount of money on the kids' sports uniforms (but didn't), claiming they gave you items that belonged to you (though they cannot give you a date or proof of delivery).
  • Not picking up or dropping off the kids within 30 minutes of the specified court-approved time. Not dropping them off at the agreed upon location. Cancelling visitation or vacation plans without reasonable notice.
  • Not paying child support, or not paying on time, or not paying the specified amount. 
  • Demanding leniency from you, but refusing the same leniency when you request it.



Some people record all conversations, if that is legal in their state. Some people never speak with the other spouse on the phone, choosing to do everything via email and text message or a coparenting app so there is proof of what was said and agreed to and the date/time.


Once you file for divorce, you may want to communicate with your spouse only in writing, if possible. Look at the OurFamilyWizard app or the AppClose app or Talking Parents app online and become familiar with how they work. These apps are lifesavers, and are admissible in court in many states. The records make it very difficult for people to change dates, wording, and pretend they did or didn’t receive or respond to an email. Often the court requires the divorcing parties split the cost of these apps. (OurFamilyWizard is about $6 per month.)



From a mother who’s been through it:


Start documenting now. Don’t just delete his hate-filled accusations, the name calling, and the threats. You’ll need them as evidence later. It will not get better. It will get worse. You may be hoping it will settle down and they get involved with a new romance, but don’t let your guard down. But the Lord is with you. Just keep being the best parent you can be.


From a father who’s been through it:


My advice is usually for the women, because they have it so much worse than I did. Think of your kids. Custody is an issue. That’s why I stayed. I was afraid that I would lose my kids, and that was her first counter to me filing for divorce. She said, “You know, you’re gonna lose all parental rights,” and my attorney said, “No way. This guy has been a schoolteacher for 20 years. He’s loved. He has a tight relationship with his kids. There’s no way in hell that his kids should be totally taken away from him.” And she had to bring that up once, and it was never mentioned again. Take care of your kids. Don’t fear that a broken home is going to break your kids. Because keeping your kids in an abusive relationship will break them more.


It’s normal for the divorce process and recovery to take time, and your best bet is keeping the kids out of the gory details, validating their feelings and process, getting your emotional needs met by other adults rather than expecting your kids to do that for you, and calmly and continually modeling and requesting kind, respectful treatment from each member of the family to all the others—including you!


A Final Word of Comfort


Though you may feel you’re walking a lonely path, there are others who’ve been where you are.


Though the waters may be rough at first, there are calmer seas ahead. Get support for yourself, and maintain protective boundaries for your children as best you can; many kids, as they grow up, come to see the truth about how dangerous the marriage was.


Nearly everyone I interviewed for this book wanted readers to know that they are grateful for their divorce and are doing better. Many started this path feeling confused, discouraged, and fearful. They felt they would never survive.


But they did—with God’s help.


They talked about the peace they’ve found and freedom from being trapped in an unworkable situation.


Even those who are in tough court battles are glad they made the decision to leave. They no longer have to live with their ex-spouse 24 hours a day, and it makes a positive difference in their children’s lives.


God cares about you, and about your children, as you are going through a life-saving divorce, and you can cling to his promises of love and his presence with you every step of the way.

As a father shows compassion to his children, 

so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

—Psalm 103:13 (ESV)


For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

—Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

For more books, free videos, and support groups on the topic of high-conflict divorces and/or parental alienation, see Section 10 in my recommended books list.

Are you going through a life-saving divorce? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 3 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book about spiritual abuse and divorce for Christians. Also, sign up for my email list below.



Start Here


Physical and Emotional Abuse & Infidelity


God Allows Divorce to Protect Victims


Does God Hate Divorce? No, Most English Bible Translations Don’t Say That


How to Find a Good Supportive Church


What If My Pastor Says It Would Be Wrong to Get Divorced for Abuse?


Divorce Saves Lives: The Surprising (Wonderful!) Truth About Divorce Nobody Told You

Will I Ever Find Love Again? Dating After Divorce: Good News

Finding Happiness and Health After Divorce


Thriving After Divorce: These Christians Tell their Stories

Self-Doubt, Second-Guessing Ourselves, and Gaslighting


Children and Divorce: Researchers Give Hope


High Conflict Divorce and Parenting


Recommended Reading List and Free Resources for Christians and Other People of Faith


Common Myths






GET THE BOOK! The Life-Saving Divorce is about divorces for very serious reasons: a pattern of sexual immorality, physical abuse, chronic emotional abuse, life-altering addictions, abandonment, or severe neglect. This book will give you hope for your future, and optimism about your children. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.



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