Paparazzi Photographer Taking Photos From Car — divorce private investigator concept.

One of the hardest things for many people going through a divorce is being haunted by unanswered questions. Why is this happening? Is my spouse involved with someone else? Are they hiding assets? Will my children be safe with their other parent when I’m not around? One good way to get the answer to many of these questions is to hire a divorce private investigator.

Hiring a private investigator for divorce can be an excellent way to get answers, evidence, and closure. However, not every divorce requires a private investigator, and in some cases, using a private investigator for divorce matters can cause more problems than it solves. It is always best to consult first with your divorce attorney before deciding to hire a private investigator in a domestic matter.

What Can a Private Investigator Do in a Divorce Case?

You may decide to work with a divorce private investigator for personal reasons, such as to learn the truth about what is really going on in your marriage or divorce. Finding out for certain that your spouse is cheating, for instance, can be very painful—but not knowing doesn’t make it any less true, and once you get over the initial shock of the confirmation, having the knowledge can help you decide what to do next.

Another reason many estranged spouses hire a private investigator is to gather evidence for use in their divorce case. It is not necessary to prove that one spouse is at fault in Maryland, Virginia, and most other states in order to be granted a divorce. However, that does not mean that one spouse’s bad conduct is irrelevant. For instance, an unfaithful spouse who lavished gifts and vacations on an affair partner using marital funds could receive a less favorable award of marital property in the divorce.

Similarly, if you suspect your spouse is concealing assets or gambling away marital money, having evidence could result in a court adding those assets back into the marital estate for purposes of calculating the equitable division of property. You may also be entitled to alimony in some cases.

Sometimes the evidence gathered by a divorce private investigator has nothing to do with adultery or assets, but with parenting. If you suspect that your spouse is abusing your child, or abusing substances in a way that could harm your child, documenting that through a private investigator could affect parenting arrangements, and help keep your child safe.

We are often asked if one parent’s adultery can affect child custody. The answer is that it often doesn’t, even if proven. Adultery may suggest that a parent’s moral character isn’t strong, but unless it directly harms the child, courts typically don’t give adultery much weight in custody determinations. However, if it is revealed that a parent regularly neglects a child in their care in favor of a new partner, or that the new partner is abusive or violent, that could affect parenting arrangements.

Sometimes having documentation of a spouse’s misconduct can provide valuable leverage in divorce settlement negotiations and prevent a case from going to trial. If one spouse knows that the other is aware of their actions and has proof, they may be more inclined to settle quickly and in a way that is favorable to the wronged spouse. A trial could result in a less-favorable outcome for the wrongdoer, and could also damage their reputation if their conduct is discussed in open court.

A word of caution: while a divorce private investigator’s findings can be used as leverage in negotiations, they should never be used to extort or blackmail the wrongdoer spouse. Let your attorney determine how any evidence your investigator gathers should be used. And if you are the spouse against whom an investigator gathered evidence, be aware that you may have recourse against your spouse if that information is used illegally.

Hiring a Private Investigator in Divorce: How to Decide

Not every divorce calls for the services of a private investigator. As noted above, the best way to make this decision is with the help of a trusted divorce attorney. Here are some things to think about as you consider hiring a divorce private investigator.

  • Do you believe or suspect that your spouse is being unfaithful?
  • Do you suspect that your spouse might be engaged in illegal activity?
  • Do you think that your spouse might be abusing or neglecting your child, especially if the child is too young to tell you about the situation?
  • Do you suspect that your spouse is concealing assets that should be part of the marital estate in your divorce?
  • Do you believe that your spouse has a substance abuse problem that they are hiding?
  • Do you suspect that your spouse is concealing a gambling problem?
  • Do you believe that there is evidence of wrongdoing on your spouse’s electronic devices?
  • Is your spouse regularly secretive in a way that makes you suspicious, even if you are not sure why?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” talk to your divorce attorney about whether to consider hiring a divorce private investigator. Not only can your attorney help you evaluate the pros and cons, but he or she may know of reliable, ethical investigators to contact.

Potential Risks of Hiring a Divorce Private Investigator

While a professional investigator can get you information that will be helpful in your divorce, there are some potential downsides. One is that if you have a reasonably amicable relationship with your spouse, their discovery that you have had them investigated could destroy any trust and cordiality between you, making it more difficult to co-parent through and after divorce.

There is also the possibility that your private investigator may not uncover any evidence of wrongdoing on your spouse’s part, either because your spouse did not engage in misconduct or because your investigator was unable to catch them in wrongdoing. Although private investigators have skills and tools that allow them to uncover information that an average person might be unable to find, they are still required to act within the bounds of the law.

Even if your divorce private investigator does uncover evidence of wrongdoing, that evidence, depending on its nature and how it was obtained, may not be admissible in court. Even so, having the knowledge could prove valuable to your attorney’s divorce strategy.

There is one more thing to think about when considering the use of a divorce private investigator: you could learn something you don’t want to know. That might be something painful that you did not even suspect, or something that could negatively affect your children’s relationship with their other parent down the road. For this and the other reasons cited, we strongly encourage you to talk to your divorce attorney before deciding to have your spouse investigated.

To learn more about private investigators and divorce, contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Divorce