One of the most helpful things my clients in false abuse cases can do to help me do my best work for them is to prepare and maintain a current case notebook.
What’s a Case Notebook?
Simply put, a case notebook is a collection of documents and notes relevant to the ongoing case that’s maintained and kept current by the client.
That last part is important. Of course as a lawyer I maintain a separate set of files and compile my own case notebook when court appearances begin.
But this case notebook is particularly important, because it’s the client who has the most personal involvement in the ongoing dispute. Only the client, for instance, can give me a factually accurate written summary of the last six visitations with the child in her own words.
Formatting and Setting Up a Case Notebook
The best format for a case notebook is a three-ring binder, in my experience. Clients can print off digital documents (e.g., emails) and use a three-hole punch to insert them into the notebook.
Alternatively, the client can use page protectors – for instance, with court documents or other official communications.
It’s best to use section dividers for different types of documents, perhaps using the headings in the next section as a guide or template.
Types of Documents to Maintain in Case Notebook
The client should maintain the following kinds of documents at a minimum.
Official Documents & Correspondence
The client should keep his own set of the originals and/or copies of all official case documents and correspondence in the case. Suggest the client maintain originals in a protective folder located in the notebook.
Arguably the most important part of the notebook – the client should keep and keep current an ongoing set of notes, especially about:
- Child’s behavior during visitations
- All conversations with the child, the other parent, and all case workers and other professionals on the CPS “side”
- Daily activities – this can be crucial in rebutting specific claims of inappropriate behavior
Anything the client has been tasked to do – either by you as her attorney or by anyone associated with CPS – should be maintained in a separate list in the notebook, along with the client’s notes about when and how the task was completed.
The client is your best source of information about the timeline of events, and a good, thorough chronology is invaluable in preparing your case.
Encourage the client to start a chronology (preferably in a digital document which can be more easily edited) starting with the beginning of the relationship with the other parent, and running through current events.
Copies of Supporting Documents
Any supporting documentation – school records and correspondence, cards from the child or other parties aligned with the other parent or extended family, report cards, medical appointment slips, etc. – should be separately maintained in a protective folder.
As much as you may obsess over each client’s case, your client in a false abuse case will be even more prone to worry and anxious thoughts.
Encourage your client to keep a running list of questions and add to that list whenever a new question or concern occurs to him. Then have the client bring in that list whenever you meet with him.
This is the best way to help the client achieve more emotional clarity, and can also help you capture key points that might help your case quickly.