Many of us want to think the best of people and not view the world as a place that’s full of dishonesty, fraud and corruption. Unfortunately, there are situations that call for expert advice and assistance when individuals and companies are concerned about such threats. Infidelity, investment scams, false resumes, fake companies, identity theft, romance scams, corporate espionage, and thousands of other threats do exist, and clients rely on a private investigator to minimize the risk and gather clear evidence. In today’s world, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry, and get the facts.
So what can a Private Investigator do for me and what can he/she not do?
A private investigator can gather information and conduct surveillance. Often, if the information is relevant, a PI will be able to testify in court, and this testimony will likely be more credible and hold up better during interrogation than that of friends and family who might be biased or repeating hearsay. A licensed investigator is also cognizant of the laws of your state and will know which methods and tools he can legally use for surveillance so that the evidence submitted is admissible in court.
Please be advised that, even though private investigators have access to tools and information that the general public does not have, they must obey the same laws as ordinary citizens. They are not allowed to wire tap, obtain cell phone records via pre-texting, or pose as a law enforcement officer. There are laws that prohibit surveillance of computers, and there are restrictions on how certain private financial information can be obtained. In some states it is forbidden to track a vehicle with a GPS device without the owner’s permission or to take photographs in an area where people have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
To hire or not to hire–that is the question
The reasons that clients feel compelled to hire a private investigator are numerous and varied. However, in the family law venue, they usually concern the following issues:
1. Infidelity – The function of a private investigator to prove infidelity in a divorce has become somewhat inconsequential because of the passage of no-fault divorce laws in many states. (In other words, the court just isn’t that interested in your dirty laundry.) However, occasionally clients will pursue an investigation only to find out if their suspicions of a cheating spouse are true and whether or not they have a good reason to file for divorce.
2. Hidden assets – Sometimes a spouse who is anticipating separation will hide material assets such as bank accounts, stock accounts, property or valuable items. The more wealth a spouse has, the more likely it is that he/she has had the opportunity to separate financial accounts. A private investigator has more likelihood of uncovering such hidden assets because he has access to records and databases that aren’t readily available to other people.
3. Past history – Criminal history, debts, previous divorces, lawsuits–all could be valuable information in divorce action.
4. Child custody – Private investigators can be very effective at providing discovery in order to prove child abuse, neglect, parental addiction, or inappropriate behavior by the other parent. In child support cases, they can also track down people who are lying about their income.
5. Eavesdropping detection investigations
6. Birth parent location
7. Child abduction by a parent