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Should I Hire a Private Investigator?

Private investigators are just for snooping on cheating spouses to catch them in the act, right? Wrong! Family law attorneys use private investigators for so much more.

Yes, private investigators are great for finding out if your spouse is cheating, don’t get us wrong, but we also use private investigators to find out whether a parent has their new boyfriend or girlfriend spending overnights with the children when a court order prohibits it. Sometimes we use them to see if a client’s spouse (or ex-spouse) is being honest about where and how much they’re working for purposes of calculating income for alimony or child support (or to modify alimony or child support if you think your ex-spouse’s income has changed.)

But be careful! While private investigators are invaluable in a family law case, they can also be misused. Most private investigators are familiar with working on family law cases, but they’re only hired to do what you ask them to do, and they cannot give legal advice. Sometimes they spend hours and hours following your spouse and tracking their every move, but it turns out what they’ve been chasing won’t help your case.

Many of our clients have already hired private investigators prior to coming in to meet with us, and we unfortunately have to tell them that they’ve spent thousands of dollars to have a private investigator investigate something that, while interesting, isn’t useful. It’s important to have a family law attorney walk you through what will and won’t be persuasive in court before the private investigator starts their investigation.

When we hire a private investigator on our client’s behalf, the law grants us special protection for the information the private investigator is gathering. You do not have the same protections for the private investigators information if you hire the private investigator on your own. Allowing an attorney to hire a private investigator on your behalf as part of your case plan will ensure that the private investigator has a clear understanding of what they need to look for, and helps to protect what they find. Keep in mind, too, if you are paying a private investigator directly, it’s very likely that the charges will appear in your bank records (which the other side will likely have access to through discovery) and clue your partner in to who you’ve hired. When an attorney hires the private investigator, all of the charges are billed through your attorney’s office.

We never want to have to tell a client that they’ve wasted time and money on a private investigator for the wrong reasons, or that they have to disclose everything the private investigator has discovered to their partner, giving them notice that they’re being investigated.

Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys before you hire a private investigator so that we can make sure the private investigator has the right information to conduct a useful investigation, and that what they find is kept as private as possible.

T. Michael


Partner & Certified Family Financial Mediator