During a separation or divorce, we have to get used to many changes. There are changes in schedules, behaviours, attitudes, finances, living arrangements… Yes, sometimes these changes involve the people our children interact with.
Many parents can find these changes overwhelming. Some make bad decisions based on emotions or a feeling of being kept out of the loop or excluded. These issues can be greatly compounded when they talk to their children and seek out information from them. In some cases, the child wants to be helpful and speaks openly and without a filter.
In other cases, the child may sense that the information is upsetting or bad to talk about. They may refuse to say anything at all. Worse still, the child may detect keywords or types of information that the parent speaks about. They may fabricate information in an effort to please or satisfy their parent’s line of questioning.
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It doesn’t take long for a small comment to be blown into a major issue. Sometimes it results into physical outbursts, public defamation, or other turmoil. For both parents, this can be a nightmare. Wise legal teams will often employ surveillance strategies to monitor the other parent or the child(ren) during visitations. If done correctly, this can satisfy the need for information and reassure the concerned party that appropriate care is being given to the children during visits. It ensures that the other parent is meeting their responsibilities.
Children Surveillance – What legal options exist?
It’s surprising to learn how many people believe that since it’s their kid, they have some right to be around all of the time. Or to personally involve themselves during visits. This simply isn’t true. Each parent is entitled to spend uninterrupted quality time with the child(ren) during their allotted timeframe(s). Time WITHOUT interference from the other parent. To avoid stalking charges, harassment complaints, etc. many times a private investigator will be tasked with monitoring the child(ren), the other parent, the relatives or associates of the other parent, or a combination of these parties.
Surveillance can legally be conducted of the child(ren) by a licensed private investigator. If there are concerns regarding the child(ren)’s well-being, activity level, safety, etc. Surveillance can confirm, negate and document these issues. In extreme cases, the investigator may contact local police or authorities to protect the child(ren); in other cases, they may simply document the issue using photos, video and other valid means and report this to the client or legal team when the surveillance term is completed.
What about GPS?
It is very rare for a court to accept this type of monitoring of the child(ren). A competent private investigator is highly unlikely to suggest this type of activity and you should be aware that if you choose to attempt to track your child or children in this manner yourself, you could be subject to liability or criminal charges depending on the circumstance and your jurisdiction.
Okay, the what about Nanny-Cams?
We’ve all heard stories about nanny-cams and the often unbelievable things they capture; however, you need to be really careful what type of device you use, the settings involved and the laws pertaining to your specific jurisdiction. There have been cases in which a caring parent has ended up in jail with a criminal record because they didn’t follow the rules. Always consult your legal team, and it wouldn’t hurt to run it past your investigator either. Often they may be able to provide you with an option you didn’t even know existed.
Maybe I could just send a recorder packed in my children ‘s backpack?
No. Don’t do that. Seriously, in almost every jurisdiction you will break at least criminal law. The value of what you might learn is not nearly equal to the liability you face for the information.
Can I track their phones?
That depends. But before you go to the App Store and start searching for spy programs, consult your lawyer for the specific rules in your jurisdiction. In some cases, if you satisfy enough of the criteria, you might be able to use features built into the phone or access data remotely that the phone collects; however, this is a very fine line to walk and you need to make sure you do it correctly, or you could find yourself on the losing end.
Does my spouse / ex-spouse have to know?
No. In fact, it’s recommended that you never ever mention it. In the best scenario, your lawyer engages the investigator, the investigator conducts the investigation independent of you, reporting directly to your lawyer and your lawyer makes the necessary decisions and reports to you what you need to know. Remember that what you learn on day 1 may be nothing compared to day 13, but if you make a comment to your ex on day 2, you may never get an opportunity to go beyond that day again.
The most important thing to remember is that the ultimate goal of surveillance of the children is to ensure that they are happy, healthy, safe and cared for. Maintaining that focus with the assistance of an investigator is your best option. If those are not the goals of your surveillance activity, then you’re probably best served not attempting surveillance at all.