When You Should Avoid Hiring a Private Investigator In Family Law

January 19, 2022
Axis Geffen

Article written by Axis Geffen

There are lots of reasons for involving a Private Investigator in your family law matter. But is it critical to hire a PI, every time? Wouldn’t that become expensive? Would it be worth it in the end? These are all valid questions. Unfortunately, the answer depends on the client, the matter being investigated and the budgets you have to work with.

I have a long history of talking clients out of an investigation. It’s earned me the respect of countless clients and potential clients, and simultaneously, it’s made a lot of my former employers really, really, mad. But the simple truth is, that not every situation is the same. Some clients are very capable of helping themselves where others need a boost in one or several areas.


A person approached me once and said they had a concern that someone was visiting their spouse at home when they’re out of town. In talking to the person, I learned that they had surveillance cameras but had become so accustomed to them that they forgot they are always on. Problem solved. No PI was needed. Granted not every situation is this simple but often a potential client will overlook simple and obvious answers because they are distracted by the emotional component.


A person invited me to their lawyer’s office where they showed me dozens of documents relating to accounts of various kinds at different financial institutions. Their request was for me to “hack” the bank and provide them with updated balances. After a considerable amount of laughing,I explained to them that “hacking” is not what you hire a PI for. Additionally, I explained that they already know the institutions and the account numbers, so there is no reason they couldn’t pursue a legal order through their lawyer and save time and money from an unnecessary third party. Again, people are often blinded by emotion and at times avoid conversations with their paid counsel.

When to Hire a Private Investigator

However, with all of that said sometimes a situation is not cut and dry or simple to answer…legally. That’s when you need to hire a PI. A PI should be retained when you need:

  • An answer that you have no ability to find,
  • Someone followed (ALWAYS USE A PI),
  • Professional help (Is my house or office bugged?),
  • Qualified research (online, offline or out of country),
  • To prove something specific for court,
  • To employ a legal GPS tracker or you need forensic help

When Not to Hire a Private Investigator

Likewise, a PI is typically not needed when you:

  • Already have the answers in hand but just need them organized,
  • Have a set conclusion to the investigation in mind and you won’t accept facts that disagree with that outcome,
  • Want someone to help you do something illegal,
  • Understand what is needed for court and have already compiled the information as required,
  • Find that a PI that you’ve hired lacks the skillset or ability to do what has been promised,
  • Have a budget too tight to allow for the professional help.

That last one is really important. I’ve seen people make a lot of bad decisions over the years but one (1) of the worst is when a client assumes that hiring a PI to do something will be a better investment than retaining or talking to legal counsel about what will help them achieve their goal(s). There are a lot of people that watch TV or movies and believe that PIs can break laws, forge documents, steal information, etc. and none of those actions should ever be done. I frequently advise potential clients to seek out legal representation BEFORE they hire their PI. A PI can be hired either way and at any point in the investigation process but in many cases, a competent legal professional can direct the case or at times direct the PI in ways that save you a lot of time and money.

So, what do you do?

Private Investigation is a business. There are many investigators that will take on your case(s) knowing that they can’t ultimately do anything for you. Not every investigator is equal in how they will treat you, what they can competently achieve for you, what it will cost to do that thing for you, how long it will take, or how they will present what they’ve learned to you in the end. As such, before hiring any PI, you should thoroughly read their contract(s), speak to them openly (to get a feel for their personality and ability), and never be afraid to fire them if they don’t perform. A PI can be a great resource to assist you, to help you organize and to get information but in some cases, you can avoid them and the extra costs by doing some of the leg work yourself. Thank you for reading.