Can a hiring Private Investigator Help My Divorce Case?

Can a hiring Private Investigator Help My Divorce Case?
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My divorce case: Can a private investigator help?

Most of us have an image from a movie in our heads when we think of private investigators: The private detective is trying to catch a cheating partner and lover in a covert hug as he sits in his car, munching on a sandwich and puffing on a cigar. But does it work like this? No, and yes.

How a Private Detective Can Help

For several reasons, private investigators are frequently retained to help with family law issues. In contrast to what you see in the movies, their evidence is typically more circumstantial. When extramarital affairs are at issue, the couples are typically sufficiently covert that the movie is, at best, PG. Nevertheless, every private eye has tales of spotting suspects in the act and filming some extremely personal and revealing moments.

Can a hiring Private Investigator Help My Divorce Case?


The False Promise of Privacy

Unless they are on an upper floor of a building where they believe they cannot be seen from the bottom, most people close the blinds. But what if a private eye is successful in recording video from a higher floor of the structure across the street? If a residence is located in a remote area, the spouse who hired the private investigator may grant the P.I. access to the property. It is only an illusion that the lovers can't be seen due to the isolation of the residence. Through the windows, the investigator can readily capture their actions.

Example 1: Making a video

In one instance, the male client was aware that his wife was having an affair, but the investigator was unable to obtain any solid proof. The P.I. then advised the client to take a quick trip. Shortly after the client left town, an unusual automobile drove up to the residence. The client and the P.I. went to the residence together and retrieved the client's gun after the P.I. called the client and asked him to return to town.

In a bedroom downstairs, they could hear the wife and her boyfriend, but the door was locked. The client opened the door to the room and tugged his wife and lover's bed sheets off while the investigator stood by with the gun displayed on his hip and a video camera in his hand. Because he did not in any way needed to threaten his wife's lover, the investigator had practiced his lines with the client. This marriage ended in divorce, and the husband's defense was greatly helped by the investigator's video.

Example #2: Inducing your spouse to Acknowledge Guilt

Another instance included a man who was able to read his wife's communications and discover that she was seeing a man who was coming into town the following evening. When the investigator followed her, she ended up at a hotel despite having told her husband she was going out with her girlfriends. He saw her leave the hotel with her boyfriend, and he saw the client pull his wife's car out of the parking lot while they were gone. Even though the car had been reported stolen, it wasn't truly stolen, so the investigator phoned the police to let them know. Of course, the wife would have to admit that she had left the vehicle in a hotel parking lot if she reported the vehicle stolen.

The customer arrived in a van and dumped all of the wife's clothes on the ground while the wife frantically searched for her car upon her return. Just for this, he had collected them in trash bags. She could no longer claim innocence because she had been proven guilty.

Example 3: Monitoring at the workplace

Another instance had a worker who was believed to be having an affair with a coworker, and the employer was related to the employee's husband. The company hired a private eye to install a covert camera in the workplace, which repeatedly recorded the married employee and their lover having sex throughout the working day. This means that this couple engaged in "illicit sexual activity" (also known as "adultery" in North Carolina), in addition to ignoring their jobs. But for this article, we'll just call it "adultery."

Most of the time, persons who have met at work only have affairs with one other person. Because of this, an investigator would typically start by asking a client, "Where does your spouse work, and who works with your spouse?" According to the investigators, it's considerably less typical (at least in North Carolina) for a married person to find many partners in bars or to be exposed as a prostitute client. But it's not exactly unheard of.

Example #4: Suspending someone

In one instance, it was found that a man had created a dating website profile and indicated that he was "separated." The investigator was shocked to see the man out with several ladies on various evenings after he started dating local women. Eventually, the man met a woman at a pub, and they had a sexual encounter in his car while it was parked. Through the car window, the private eye was able to capture video of the couple.

Keep Your Private Investigator Hire a Secret.

Unfortunately, having an affair with a close family friend is also not unheard of. Due to the possibility that their parents can unintentionally reveal their suspicions to the spouse, detectives and attorneys urge their clients to keep their suspicions of adultery a secret from anybody. To find out if surveillance is being conducted, the spouse may even employ a private investigator. If this happened, the spouse would become so cautious that it would be very difficult to collect any evidence to support a later legal case.

Who Engages the Private Detective?

A husband or wife will frequently employ a private investigator before seeing an attorney when they fear their partner is cheating. Typically, this is a mistake. The information is frequently better safeguarded if the attorney engages the P.I. on behalf of the client because of the confidentiality and privilege laws in North Carolina. Any materials produced in anticipation of trial may be protected from discovery by the opposing party when the contract is between the attorney and the investigator and is referred to as "attorney work product."

It is advised for a client to speak with an attorney first for this reason. Reputable private investigators who are not only competent but also knowledgeable of the legislation can be suggested by family law businesses. They won't illegally obtain any material that could jeopardize a divorce case, and they'll produce incredibly thorough reports that will assist the lawyer to build a strong case in court.

What Will You Do With the Data Gathered?

However, there are times when the information gathered by a private investigator will not be useful in a divorce case. Before investing in a P.I., a customer might get legal advice on whether it is worthwhile. It might not be helpful to produce information from an investigator in court, for instance, if the couple has only been married for a year, if the client earns too much money to be granted alimony, or if the parties don't earn enough money to pay alimony. Although a client might wish to employ a private investigator for sentimental reasons, it's crucial to consult with a lawyer to see whether doing so would be beneficial from a legal standpoint.

Of course, hiring a private investigator and choosing not to use the information is perfectly acceptable. Someone may decide to stay in a relationship based on the evidence a P.I. has collected. Even if divorce is unlikely, it is a good idea to be ready just in case. If the case does end up in divorce court, the client is protected if the attorney has a contract with the P.I.

Don't 'hire' friends to keep an eye on your spouse

What if a friend is asked to stalk the spouse or have their phone wiretapped? This will only lead to disaster. First and foremost, wiretapping is prohibited by both federal and state law. A buddy can face criminal charges for making an unintentional error because there are trespassing and harassment rules that the average person may not be aware of. The aggrieved parties may also file civil lawsuits against the friend/amateur investigator in addition to criminal accusations.

A non-professional is significantly more likely to reveal the party being watched, even if the friend complies with the law. Evidence collection becomes nearly impossible once the spouse is aware that they are being followed. Given that private investigators typically charge by the hour, this error might be expensive. The expert investigator may have to spend a lot more time tipping off the spouse, which will increase the expense. One private detective compares it to getting an estimate on a broken transmission only to go home and disassemble it. The estimate will be greater if you need to send the transmission back to the mechanic in multiple pieces because it will take the mechanic longer to reassemble the disorganized mess.

When should someone hire a private investigator?

A lawyer should be consulted even if there is only a remote possibility that the marriage is in trouble. If the case goes to trial, the P.I.'s evidence is considerably more likely to be included in the case if it was acquired under the supervision and direction of an attorney. It's a waste of the client's money if the judge rejects the evidence because it wasn't obtained legally or doesn't comply with technical standards.

Some people think they can face their partner and resolve the issue to improve their marriage. Although this is undoubtedly a possibility, it's beneficial to have proof before the confrontation if the cheating spouse is unable to work on the marriage. If a divorce hearing is necessary, that evidence will then be made available. It's crucial to demonstrate that the affair started before the couple split up. So, the majority of lawyers and investigators advise clients to seek legal counsel and engage a private investigator as soon as they have suspicions their spouse is having an affair.

Possibility and Preference

Since most discreet cheating partners avoid detection, it is uncommon for someone to be "caught in the act," making evidence of an affair difficult to come by. Due to this, the court simply requires circumstantial evidence of infidelity from a spouse. For adultery to have occurred, there must be proof of "opportunity and inclination." The evidence must demonstrate both opportunity and inclination to be persuasive in court.

Finding that the parties have gone into a house, hotel room, the rear seat of a car, or another place of similar nature alone and come out later constitutes an opportunity to commit adultery. Sexual interaction is possible here. Of course, the parties might be colleagues conducting a meeting in a hotel room or platonic pals slumbering in different rooms. Because of this, the inclination is equally significant.

Evidence of intention suggests that the parties intended to conduct adultery. Typically, this proof consists of a video of the pair having a romantic kiss, holding hands, or hugging. If you combine the evidence of opportunity with the evidence of inclination, such as emails, phone calls, and credit card receipts for flowers, a judge or jury may be able to conclude that adultery took place.

Adultery for Maintenance

In North Carolina, the main factor determining alimony is need. When there is a separation or divorce, the court makes an effort to ensure that both parties can manage their finances. However, if it is established that the spouse requesting alimony has engaged in adultery, that spouse is no longer entitled to that support, unless the other spouse is also engaging in adultery. The court has the power to award alimony if both parties are engaging in adultery.

Alimony payments often end after a certain number of years. Additionally, alimony typically stops when the recipient of it "cohabits," that is, moves in with a new romantic partner. Despite the statutes' explicit definition of cohabitation, it is not often obvious when someone is cohabitating. To find out if someone has moved in with the person getting alimony, investigators are frequently contacted.

One instance included a woman who had four beach properties, lived in one and rented the others out. The wife's lover was caught on camera at her home at all hours of the day and night by a private investigator that her husband had hired to rent out the house next door. The investigator was able to collect film showing the boyfriend's daughter leaving the house for the school bus in the mornings, albeit this could still be seen as circumstantial evidence. This was strong evidence that the wife was living with the boyfriend because the school required a registered address in its record. The investigator also discovered the boyfriend's "given" address, but all they could do was take pictures of the inside with furniture stacked up to prove that no one lived there.

Due to this proof, the husband was released from his alimony duty. For ten years, he had been paying $5,000 a month in alimony.

Children's Custody Investigations

When child custody is a factor in a family court issue, private detectives are frequently retained. For instance, a mother was concerned that her husband was operating the vehicle while intoxicated while the kids were inside. The father was tracked down in a bar by an investigator who had been paid to track him. The investigator was able to watch the father and keep track of how many drinks he consumed before picking up the kids from school. This demonstrated to the mother that her husband was endangering their children, enabling her to present the facts in court and defend her children.

Therefore, private detectives don't just monitor partners who might be having an affair. A parent may be driving the kids somewhere without strapping them into their car seats. An investigator can record the dangerous behavior and show it even if the parent disputes it. The other parent can then be given custody using the proof.

One spouse may have received "the right of first refusal" in a custody order from the court. This means that if one parent has the children and is unable to care for them on a specific day, they must give the other parent priority in caring for the kids. To determine whether parents are following the court order, an investigator may use surveillance. It might be discovered that one parent is abandoning their kids with a 17-year-old sibling instead of phoning the other.

Of course, when custody is in question, a parent's eating habits also come into play. It's not about infidelity because this frequently occurs after the divorce process is over. The welfare of the kids is at stake. It is fair game in a child custody court when a parent's romantic relationship affects the kids. For instance, evidence that a parent's new partner is a convicted sex offender has a history of criminal drug charges, or is a regular drinker or drug user can be used to argue against the parent's right to custody. A private investigator might help figure out whether rumors that one parent has heard about the other parent's boyfriend or girlfriend are true.

Unauthorized Investigations

Anthony Pellicano, a well-known private investigator in Los Angeles, was found guilty of several unlawful actions, including eavesdropping, computer fraud, and identity theft. He described his work as "problem-solving through the acquisition of information" in court testimony. In other words, he was prepared to take any action necessary to get his clients the information they needed.

Some private investigators are eager to gather information unlawfully, even though the majority are professionals and uphold the law. Some customers will do anything to obtain proof they desperately need to use against a spouse. Of course, this is a mistake. Without a doubt, the court will dismiss evidence that has been proven to have been obtained unlawfully. It will not help a divorce case in any way and may even badly hurt a client's case.

What is hence acceptable and prohibited? Wiretapping is prohibited, as was previously stated. An investigator is permitted to record everything visible to the general public, but in many circumstances, it is advisable to disable the camera's audio feature because it might not be allowed in court. As a result, the P.I. can record actions like a pair holding hands in public, kissing before getting into a car, and even making out if no curtains are blocking the window, but generally speaking, the P.I. cannot record the couple's talks.

It is occasionally possible to conceal a camera within a house to film the residents' activities. The legal concerns posed by covert cameras are particularly complicated. Without specialized legal advice and direction, a person should never perform this activity. In some cases, hiding cameras and audio recorders might get you in trouble with the law. Employing a specialist to help with the consideration of these actions is usually suggested. To capture a partner engaging in adultery, spouses have frequently installed covert cameras and microphones in their residences. These efforts to gather evidence are occasionally successful but are risky and need to be carefully assessed.

In addition, there are a lot of factors to take into account when tracking activity in automobiles. Many customers want to install a GPS tracking device in their spouse's or their employer's vehicle. Once more, managing civil and criminal responsibility necessitates careful thinking. However, the GPS gadget has developed into a very effective and affordable technique for conducting surveillance and is used in many instances.

Computers can potentially cause a variety of problems for the unwary. Private detectives are frequently trained in the forensic analysis of computer drives and have access to useful information including financial records, web browsing history, photographic evidence, and occasionally pornographic material. The legality of accessing a computer is complicated and depends on several variables, including who owns the system and what the parties expect to do with it.

Sometimes the spouse being followed will hire investigators to search for GPS tracking devices, eavesdropping equipment, and hidden cameras. Some private investigators specialize in hacking to locate secret computer files and emails, while others have countermeasures training that enables them to look for such devices. Computers can be scanned to see if spyware has been installed on them to track the online behavior of others. In one instance, spyware was installed on a married woman's computer by her boyfriend while she was having an affair. Because her boyfriend lacked the legal authority to install the spyware on her computer, the woman hired an investigator who discovered the spyware and testified in a civil court case she filed against him.

the conclusion

Before separation to check for adultery, after a separation agreement is in place to ensure no breach of the agreement has happened, or even after a divorce is final and child custody or alimony issues are involved, an investigator may be helpful at various phases of a family law case. In the latter scenario, the investigator might gather the information that enables the client to request a court order modification. This could be crucial if children's welfare is at stake or if one spouse is unfairly getting alimony.

With a family law attorney and a private investigator, you must be completely truthful. Without complete knowledge of the circumstances, neither of them can perform their duties. If the customer has lied to the investigator, some investigators will end their relationship with the client and decline to return costs.

Private investigators can help in a variety of ways to improve a court case and aid the parties in learning the truth. They are frequently a crucial component in family law cases. They offer those going through a very hard situation legal and emotional help.