Using a Private Investigator to Sort out Custody vs Control

January 12, 2023
Axis Geffen

Article written by Axis Geffen

In a perfect world, we pick our partner and start a family. Whether or not we remain with that same partner forever, we equally co-parent - sharing all responsibilities, decisions and custody without ever having a hitch. But this isn't a perfect world, and the variables we face from the moment we meet someone to the years after a separation or divorce can seem to outnumber the stars in the sky. So how do we cope? How do we figure out who takes on what responsibilities and how do we convince a third party (like a judge or mediator) to agree with those decisions? Could a private investigator help with these questions?

private investigator

Focusing on the Facts:

There are many answers, but ultimately, the simplest of them all is facts. Facts about our relationship, our ability to work together or to agree; Facts about our lifestyles, social circles and environment; Facts about the way we treat our children, the way we treat each other and how we make decisions are all critical to determining the outcome of our case.

How do we get "facts"? How do we prove "facts"? That can be a challenge and if it is, a Private Investigator may be the best answer. However, do we always need to hire a Private Investigator to prove "facts"? Well, that depends on you, your documentation skills and, of course, which facts you need to prove.

Should I Hire a Private Investigator?

In many situations, you may be able to gather the necessary evidence to prove your position on your own. Still, in some cases it may be easier, more cost-effective, less politically volatile and/or easier for a judge or other deciding party to understand if you hire a Private Investigator with experience preparing court-ready documentation.

For example: If the concern is that your spouse is not fit to have sole custody of the children, you might be able to take notes of their behaviour, dates and times that incidents occurred that support your motion. In some cases, you may have other forms of proof (like legal audio recordings, etc.) that might be sufficient.

On the other hand, whether or not you have that, it might be warranted to have a licensed PI follow your ex and obtain video, documentation, and/or attest on your behalf to the behaviour witnessed. Likewise, you might want the assistance of a PI to help flush out a public record of past criminal behaviour or ongoing legal concerns, etc., that could impact the judge's decision.

private investigator

Advantages to Hiring a Private Investigator:

The advantages of having a licensed PI on your team:

  • Court-ready documentation and reporting of your ex's behaviour or past;
  • Video obtained within the legal requirements of the courts (no stalking charges);
  • A PI can follow and monitor your ex legally (Again, no stalking charges);
  • Experience in locating and providing proof of current/past criminal activity;
  • A PI often has more options for locating evidence and presenting it to the courts;
  • Anonymity: A PI can do things without drawing attention to you. Fewer politics involved;
  • A PI is used to receiving instruction from your lawyer and knows how to get what is needed;

Disadvantages to Hiring a Private Investigator:

The disadvantages of having a licensed PI on your team:

  • There is an added expense, and depending on what you want or need, it can get costly;
  • You'll need to decide what you want to know versus what you actually need to know;

Your Lawyer May Know Best:

Now, I did refer to Custody versus Control in this article's title, so let's address the elephant in the room; are we trying to determine custody issues or who has the decision-making authority? Honestly, it doesn't matter that much which of these things you're trying to figure out. A PI helps in many of the same ways; but again, in many cases, you may have enough of a foundation on your own to achieve your desired result. I like to remind potential clients at this point that they have retained legal counsel that is there to support and champion their specific cause to the end. It may be worth asking them for their opinion.

private investigator

While not every lawyer has worked with a PI firm (or worse, they may have worked with an under-skilled or less than reputable agency), they can usually have a good feel for whether or not you have enough evidence to support your motion as it stands. That is the question I would ask them. If the answer is, a confident "Yes!" then you can likely avoid the added expense of a PI (unless there is something you really want to know or unless you want the added security of knowing that every stone was turned). Still, if your lawyer shrugs and says anything other than "Yes!" you may want to consider your options, including asking your lawyer what information would really benefit you in the end. This is critical information that any PI you hire or retain will need to know.