One of the most damaging assumptions people make when it comes to family law investigations is believing that they can investigate their spouse with the same diligence, or come up with the same results, as a professional private investigator. Although there are many reasons to retain a P.I., there are some things that the average person can do to save themselves time, money and ultimately assist in conducting their investigation.
No hired investigator will ever know as much about your spouse as you do. So the type of investigation that is best suited to the average person is the preliminary background investigation. Assuming you know your spouse well, it makes sense that you do your best to gather the information listed below, and put that forward to the investigator who will then verify and supplement with additional things that you may not have known. I cannot suggest that spouses who are approaching separation or divorce conduct any investigation outside of the preliminary background stage; there are some complexities that the average person may not be aware of, and doing something like surveillance incorrectly could result in stalking or harassment charges. (Below we refer to your spouse, but the same points apply to anyone that you wish to investigate.)
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- If you have good photos of the person you want to investigate, keep them handy and provide them to the investigator if and when you retain one;
- Make a list of important information such as your spouse’s full name, nicknames, their current address and former addresses, their phone number(s), their date of birth, the vehicle they drive, the licence plate of any of their vehicles / trailers / ATV’s, etc., their current and former employers, hobbies they have or places they like to go;
- Vacations they’ve been on and the dates that they took those vacations;
- Any clubs or groups that they associate with;
- Every email address that you can think of that is related to your spouse.
- Contact your spouse’s work to inquire about them, their income, etc.;
- Follow your spouse around (unless you are specifically licensed and permitted legally to do so);
- Record or attempt to record your spouse’s phone calls, or conversations with your spouse that you are not specifically a party to;
- Access your spouse’s locked email, websites, social media sites, Apple ID’s, etc.;
- Try to obtain your spouse’s medical or bank records;
- Take your spouse’s mail;
- Place a GPS tracker on your spouse’s vehicle(s) – or on your spouse.
If you do hire an investigator:
- Listen carefully and write down what the investigator asks you to provide;
- Provide the information requested in detail, but always double check it to make sure it is correct before you pass it on (a misspelled name, or accidentally calling a location a Street instead of a Road could result in lots of wasted time and money);
- Once the investigator has the information and begins working to find you answer, limit your contact to providing updated information if you become aware of it, or discussing changes in your requirements (a lot of people think that they are helping themselves by repeatedly asking for updates, but this actually distracts an investigator and delays results);
- Avoid discussing the fact that you hired an investigator until after your matter is fully resolved.
Often we assume that personal habits or details about our spouse (the other party) are insignificant, but they can completely change the way that an investigator approaches the investigation. If the P.I. is aware of these details from the beginning, they can make a huge difference in the end cost and end result. As such, it is critical that you try to remember and keep track of as much of the information above as possible, and make sure that you share this information with your investigator if you retain one.