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How Can a Private Investigator Help in My Divorce Case?
Divorce is often a contentious experience in which formerly intimate spouses are now adversaries. With this dynamic, spouses may start to hide information or take part in activities that may threaten the well-being of the family. Private investigators are sometimes retained to assist in divorce cases for a number of reasons.
Evidence of Adultery or Misconduct
A private investigator can investigate if a spouse is committing adultery or other types of marital misconduct. Every state has no-fault divorce laws that do not require the evidence of wrongdoing in order to grant a divorce. However, marital misconduct is sometimes relevant for proceedings involving spousal support in states in which support is barred if one party’s conduct led to the demise of the marriage. Additionally, marital misconduct may also help provide more favorable terms for a spouse under a prenuptial agreement.
A private investigator can also investigate in situations in which a spouse is being abused. Such evidence can help the spouse seek a restraining order that can also provide the basis of pre-divorce relief, including custody matters, child support, spousal support and the payment of legal fees, in some cases.
A critical area in which private investigators provide assistance is in locating assets. While a divorce is pending or even before that point, a spouse may try to illegally hide assets in order to shield them from the divorce proceedings. This may occur when one spouse handled most of the financial decisions and left the other in the dark about these matters for the extent of the marriage. It can also occur in situations in which one spouse preempts the divorce proceedings by trying to spend down the marital estate.
Individuals may attempt to hide assets in a number of devious ways. For example, they may pay off purported loans to friends and families who are really holding the funds for the spouse until after the divorce. They may sell property at a discount in the same manner, reclaiming it after the divorce hearing. They may move funds to offshore accounts or personal property to hidden storage facilities.
Private investigators often look through a variety of databases in order to attempt to find such assets. They may search SEC filings and Secretary of State filings in order to determine if there are any personal or business assets that are not being disclosed. They may also search through documents that clients provide to find charges or transactions that help point to hidden assets. Family law lawyers can use this information in order to officially request documents during the divorce proceedings in order for their clients to get their fair share. Some state laws permit courts to award the entire value of an asset to the innocent spouse when such fraud is used to conceal the asset.
When one spouse knows that he or she is likely to be required to pay support, he or she may attempt to make his or her earnings look lower. He or she may consort with a boss to delay bonuses and other employment privileges until after the divorce. He or she may take a temporary cut in hours in order to reduce earnings. If the spouse owns a business, he or she may take steps to decrease the value of the business, such as taking on additional debts or delaying collecting on monies owed to the business.
Another strategy that a devious spouse may attempt is to reduce official working hours and then work “off the books” for the same employer or a different one. On the other hand, a spouse who is receiving financial support may be participating in similarly devious conduct. For example, he or she may be living with a romantic partner and may not report this information in fear of losing such support. Private investigators can help unravel these schemes by analyzing financial documents or conducting surveillance.
Private investigators may also be called on to assist in child custody matters. If a spouse is concerned about the activities that transpire while the child is visiting the other parent, a private investigator may be asked to check into this issue. He or she may conduct surveillance to determine if drugs or alcohol are involved. Similarly, he or she may be asked to determine if the child is being abused. The private investigator may also act as a liaison between one parent and others in the child’s life, such as teachers and neighbors.