Attorneys Discuss Pros & Cons of Private Investigator in a Divorce Case
Divorce releases a range of emotions including regret and sorrow, but sometimes causes feelings of enmity and vengeance. Letting your emotions run your divorce instead of careful strategic thinking can result in unintended consequences. One of our roles as attorneys is to guide you towards clear and strategic thinking in the process despite those charged emotions, and focus efforts on end goals that prioritize your legal position over your emotions.
Suspicions of a spouse often lead clients to inquire whether they should hire a private investigator in divorce and child custody proceedings. The answer to such inquiries is not black and white. Private investigators can serve an important purpose in family law proceedings. But their involvement is also not without risk.
PROS of Hiring a Private Investigator in a Divorce
While Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means that “fault” need not be established to get a divorce, the factual circumstances leading to a divorce can affect things like apportionment of assets, spousal support, child support, and child custody. Since divorce often involves contradictory “he said/she said” arguments, private investigators can play an important role in getting to the true facts.
For example, it is relevant to discover whether a spouse has been unfaithful, financially irresponsible, abusing drugs, or engaged in other harmful behaviors. This type of information may not be able to be discovered through standard legal discovery processes, and, therefore, the use of a private investigator may be necessary. Indeed, an experienced private investigator will have the expertise, technology, and legal leeway to surveil, track locations, take photographic or video evidence, and provide reports that support such suspicions.
In some cases, a client may come across information about their spouse “through the grapevine” that, if true, would be relevant to the case. Such information needs verification in order to be used in a court proceeding, so a private investigator could be employed to either confirm or debunk the claims. This typically involves the private investigator tracking down the source of the information to assess the veracity of the claims. Additionally, the private investigator’s impression of the information source can be a vital component in your strategic decision of whether to introduce the information into the proceedings.
Furthermore, private investigators have means and methods to gather information that are not otherwise available. Private investigators obtain evidence, conduct surveillance, perform background checks, and are able to perform other tasks that unlicensed individuals cannot, such as, placing a GPS device on a spouse’s vehicle.
CONS of Hiring a Private Investigator in a Divorce
Hiring a private investigator in a divorce proceeding can be beneficial, but it’s not a decision to consider lightly. Making the decision with your attorney will help you to weigh issues such as the discoverability of the investigator’s report, duty to disclose to opposing counsel, admissibility of evidence and so forth.
In some cases, despite there being compelling reasons to hire a private investigator, other considerations outweigh the potential benefits. In particular, in situations in which the spouses have a relatively amicable relationship, and wish to maintain a level of trust, uprooting truths based on your suspicions and then making those truths known in the form of having hired a private investigator will almost certainly turn things adversarial. Communication and cooperation may cease at that point.
Lastly, keep in mind that you may need to be careful of what you wish for. Good investigators will find everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Social media has become a treasure trove for private investigators and the great undoing of many a litigant in a divorce or custody case.
Investigators may obtain photo or video evidence of your significant other conducting extra-marital relationships, using illicit drugs, brandishing weapons inappropriately, or being somewhere they are prohibited from being in accordance with existing court orders. If something is online, chances are the investigator will find it, and it may bolster your case. But it may also bring to light some very unflattering truths that, even in a dispute, you may not wish to be made public or shared with your children.
Oakland County Divorce Attorney
There is no one right answer to the question of whether an individual should hire a private investigator during a divorce case. Every situation is different, and your divorce attorney is the best ally you can have to help you decide if this is a good or bad idea in your unique divorce circumstances.
If you are considering hiring a private investigator, your divorce attorney can help you set aside emotion and apply an intellectual standard to the question – before you do anything you might later regret.
When it comes to hiring a private investigator, tread cautiously, and trust the judgment of your attorney as to whether it’s the right move for you.
If you have questions about this article and would like to know more about the pros and cons of hiring a private investigator in a divorce or custody case, contact Oakland County Divorce Attorney Starla Zehr.
Oakland County divorce attorney Starla Zehr understands that a divorce can be emotionally and financially devastating. You want to move forward with a life that is as happy, normal and as financially secure as possible. The role of your attorney is extremely important in helping you achieve the best financial results in your divorce.
Attorney Starla Zehr will carefully explain all of your options, so you can make the financial decisions that are right for you. And, when necessary, Starla will fight aggressively for you, to make sure your rights are always protected, and to ensure that you get the best possible results.
Starla offers caring, compassionate advice & aggressive representation at affordable rates. Call Starla today for a free, confidential consultation.