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If you're involved in a messy divorce, or maybe one that is going suspiciously smoothly, you may be considering hiring a private investigator (P.I.). Private investigators can often be helpful. For example, a private investigator may be able to find out if your soon-to-be former spouse has been hiding money, misrepresenting their living situation, mistreating the children, or misrepresenting their financial situation in other ways (such as running a cash business on the side).
While many individuals will consider doing the investigative work on their own, this is generally not advised. First off, your credibility is already going to be in question as a party to the matter, whereas a private investigator, who will generally be licensed, will not testify to anything they do not have evidence to support thereby bolstering their credibility. Also, there are legal limits to spying on our spouse.
How Do Private Investigators Help?
Private investigators can sometimes make your case a slam dunk, or sometimes just marginally help. Frequently they provide no benefit, and on rare occasion, they can make matters worse. Your attorney will usually be able to tell you if it is a good idea, financially, to hire one. One of the most important ways that a PI can be worth their generally hefty price-tags is when they discover hidden bank accounts or financial misrepresentations. If a court discovers that one party is hiding marital property, then that party is likely going to lose credibility.
PIs can can also help confirming a spouse's living situation. While many states do not look to whether either party is at fault, discovering prior infidelity can often help in reaching a settlement. Additionally, most courts will consider evidence that a separated soon-to-be former spouse is cohabitating with a new lover, partner, or even a family member, for purposes of alimony at least, as well as potentially the distribution of marital assets.
This fact can also have important implications for child custody, if that is in issue. However, the legal landscape is always changing, and courts now look more and more to principles of fairness over fault.
Considerations When Hiring a Private Investigator
If you're considering hiring a private investigator, talk to your attorney first. If you don't have an attorney, get one. Private investigators are costly and if you select the wrong one, it can land you in legal trouble. Having an attorney will help you mitigate the latter, while making sure that you're getting the most for your money.
Additionally, while you may want to find out if your soon-to-be former spouse is carrying on with a new lover, it is unlikely to help your case unless it is happening in front of, and has an impact on, your children. Your lawyer will be able to keep your emotions in check, while directing the investigator to focus on the legally relevant information for your case.