DCS cases: Document Everything

Imagine you are the judge. Every week you hear testimony from caseworkers. Over time you become familiar with the caseworkers. They seem like nice enough people, they are usually dressed nicely and they have no apparent motive to be “less than truthful”.

Now on the other side of the courtroom you have some parent. You’ve never seen them before (if you have it is even worse because that means they have been in trouble). The only thing you know about them is that the State has had to remove their children (i.e. they are probably somehow bad parents). They are usually dressed poorly and have a powerful motive to be “less than truthful” because they want their kids back.

Who would YOU believe?

The judges will usually believe the caseworkers.

For that reason I tell my clients that what they say in court will not help them. Rather it is what they can PROVE in court.

Which is why you need to document everything. For example if you go and do an alcohol and drug assessment there will usually be one to two pages of paperwork generated. You need to keep a copy of that paperwork because 6 months later when you testify that you did the alcohol and drug assessment and the caseworker testifies that she never got any paperwork documenting this the court is going to believe that you NEVER did the alcohol and drug assessment. It is NOT enough to do it and then say you did it. You must prove it. So you get the documentation. You give copies to your attorney and the caseworker (if the caseworker is honest and you do this then this never becomes an issue at trial because the caseworker will say you did the alcohol and drug assessment).

So if there is any documentation associated with anything you have done you KEEP the document so you can PROVE it later.

However there are things for which there is no documentation. For example, phone calls to the caseworker. I have seen countless times where the caseworker testifies that they never heard from the parent while the parent is frantically whispering into my ear, “I tried to call her numerous times. She wouldn’t answer the phone”. And the parent can get on the stand and testify that they called numerous times and got no answer. Guess who the judge will believe.

So how do you document a phone call that isn’t answered? Email. Each of the caseworkers has an email. It is usually their first name period last name @tn.gov    So caseworker Susan Smith would usually have an email susan.smith@tn.gov  At the start of the case ask the caseworker for their email. When you email something to the caseworker go to your “sent” folder and click on the email you just sent and print it out and keep it. Email also has the advantage in that the caseworkers will usually actually answer it (you should be printing and keeping their answers). If you do have a phone call with the caseworker, follow it up with an email confirming whatever you discussed on the call. That way six months later when caseworker testifies that you never contacted her you can whip out the emails and PROVE that you did. You can also use texts as well to do this but you have to KEEP the texts and the phone if you want to do this.

If you are documenting everything you will quickly have a lot of paperwork. You need to buy a folder to keep all of the paperwork in one spot. Dollar General sells ten manilla folders for $1.99. It is a small price to pay if you are serious about getting your kids back…..