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Can I use my personal journal to prove how poor access has been?

By: Steven Benmor, B.Sc., LL.B., Family Lawyer

Jurisdiction: Ontario (Canada)

It is common practice to use a personal journal or day-planner to record the history of access, especially in situations of conflict. But in the decision of Hartland v. Rahaman (Superior Court of Justice, Campbell, J., November 14, 2001), the court ruled that the use of the journal was not admissible as evidence.

In that case, the mother prepared a journal related to a child’s behaviour around access visits with her father. The parties in this case were involved in an ongoing dispute regarding the father exercising his access rights. The child was exhibiting problematic behaviour around the time of her access days. The mother notified her family doctor of the situation. The doctor felt that the behaviour could be associated with the access visits and advised the mother to keep an ongoing journal of the child’s behaviour.

The mother then brought an application before a Judge regarding the father’s access. At trial, the mother asked for permission to refer to her journal to help her refresh her memory of the incidents of negative behaviour exhibited by the child. The father applied to have this journal excluded from evidence on the ground that it was hearsay evidence. The court ruled that the journal was not admissible because the mother had no independent recollection of the events recorded in the journal. In addition, the court found that because the mother only recorded the negative behaviour of the child, the value of the evidence was tainted.

Nonetheless, it is recommended that separated parents maintain a written record of visitation in a personal journal or day-planner so that it may be referred to, in the event that there is a dispute as to the time, quantity and quality of access visits. The record should include as much detail as possible, such as the date, time and circumstances of each visit. The issue of admissibility of this evidence will be examined and addressed by your Family lawyer.

Steven Benmor

About the author: Steven Benmor practices Family Law in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Visit Steven Benmor’s online Family Law Resource Center for concise answers to many more frequently asked Family law questions, feature articles on Family law topics, dozens of links to other Family law websites, and more at The information on this page is for discussion purposes only. It is by no means legal advice or even a statement of the law on this subject. Please do not rely on the accuracy or completeness of this information. Any question or concern elicited by the information on this page should be taken to a lawyer who will consider the facts of each case and the legal remedies available.