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Can a Private Investigator Help My Divorce Case?

In certain circumstances and certain types of Texas divorce cases, a private investigator may be well worth the expense. If your spouse has engaged in infidelity, wasting marital assets, or has attempted to engage in fraudulent activity about your small business then the assistance provided by a private investigator can be invaluable. In most divorce cases you can expect to be able to obtain potential evidence in your case using a method known as discovery. However, it is unlikely that discovery would be effective in a case involving someone who is not truthful or honest.

Using discovery to obtain information 

In a standard divorce case, it is common for parties to submit requests for discovery upon their spouse. These requests can come before temporary orders mediation and are oftentimes attached to the original petition for divorce. Discovery requests involve things like requests for admission, requests for disclosure as well as interrogatories. Putting it all together, discovery is the main method, overseen by your family court, of obtaining information from your spouse throughout the divorce case. You and your attorney can use this information to help solidify arguments that you may make in a trial or to prepare for mediation.

Unfortunately, if your spouse is dishonest then discovery probably will not be the most fruitful time for you. The reason being is that your spouse may withhold information even against court orders. In that case, you may still have questions about certain areas of your case and the life of your spouse that you need answers to. In that case, hiring a private investigator may be an option that you look to take advantage of.

On a practical level, the costs of hiring a private investigator can be rather high. As a result, unless your divorce case involves a substantial amount of property interests you and your attorney should think long and hard about whether a private investigator should be hired in your case. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to hiring a private investigator for your divorce. You need to figure out if the potential advantages outweigh the potential disadvantages.

Your attorney may be able to offer some similar advantages for you during your divorce as a private investigator. The obvious benefit of taking advantage of your attorney’s services is that you are already paying him or her to represent you in your divorce case. So, when it comes down to it the question you need to ask yourself is whether the investment in a private investigator is worth the time spent researching this decision as well as the money it takes to employ him or her for a certain period.

This question and more will be discussed in today's blog post. If you have any questions about the material that we share in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Our law office is three offices in one! We offer locations in Atascocita, Kingwood, and in Houston. This means that no matter where you live in the city of Houston, there is a Law Office of Bryan Fagan location close by you. In a free-of-charge consultation with one of our attorneys, you can learn more about the use of a private investigator in your divorce as well as any other information you would like to learn about Texas family law and divorce cases.

Discovery should at least be attempted

As we just mentioned, while a private investigator sounds like someone exciting to hire and can provide certain benefits to a case, the reality of the situation is that an experienced family law attorney from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is equipped to help you obtain information and bolster your case if you have a spouse who is unhelpful or dishonest. Our attorneys can help you hold your spouse’s feet to the fire by submitting discovery requests upon them and their attorney so that you can obtain valuable insight into their case and into any circumstances that may be impacting your divorce.

Submitting discovery requests to an opposing party is not something that every family law attorney does. It takes time and energy to consider the specific questions and requests that need to be made and then to put those requests into a format that your spouse would legally be obligated to answer. However, that is the sort of preparation in time that our attorneys put into every divorce that we assist clients with. We put a personalized touch on every case we are fortunate enough to work on to benefit you and your family.

This process begins with you being able to collect whatever information you can regarding infidelity, fraud, or any other kind of issue that may be relevant to your divorce. Consider that you may be in a position where you are a stay-at-home parent or spouse and have not worked in many years. In a situation like that, your community estate must be divided in such a way that you can keep your head above water while you work to move past your divorce. Not having an income of your own may have worked during your marriage due to the community property laws in Texas. However, after your divorce, it can be difficult to make it from a financial perspective without your income.

While you work to build a life independent of your spouse, you can rely upon the property obtained in your divorce. Since a “just and right division” of community property in many divorces looks like a 50/50 split of the assets you would certainly be at a disadvantage if your spouse truly has engaged in behavior that has directly led to your divorce. If you allege adultery or infidelity as a ground for divorce, then you still must be able to prove that the infidelity occurred and that it was directly detrimental to your marriage. While you may know first-hand how the infidelity impacted your marriage there would need to be evidence to present to a judge, potentially. Practically speaking, your spouse would need to know that you have evidence to prove the infidelity to negotiate with you favorably when it comes to dividing up your community estate.

Another part of this discussion involves being able to show that your spouse engaged in practices related to their business that not only mishandled community assets but severely weakened your marriage. If you have any kind of proof regarding this, then you can submit that to your attorney and he or she can begin to sort through it to be able to build a case to show that you have a claim for a disproportionate share of your community estate. Most often, this is done through submitting discovery requests to your spouse. 

if your spouse fails to respond promptly to your request for discovery or otherwise objects to certain questions inappropriately then one of the experienced family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan we'll know how to proceed. It could mean directly confronting your spouse and their attorney over their failure to respond appropriately to discovery requests or it could mean filing a motion to compel discovery requests with the court and bringing the issue to the judge’s attention. Either way, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan we'll be ready and able to assist you in these types of circumstances.

How to determine if a private investigator is needed in your case?

With all of that said, there may be circumstances that call for the use of a private investigator within your divorce case. To be sure, it is not standard practice for a private investigator to be brought into every single divorce case that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan works on. The circumstances of your case may not call for the use of a private investigator. Additionally, the costs associated with hiring a private investigator may be beyond your budget or even the facts of your case. Do not assume that getting involved in a divorce case means having to hire a  private investigator. However, there are times when a private investigator may be able to assist you in accomplishing goals in your divorce.

In most cases where a private investigator is hired, there is typically a large number of assets at stake. These are known as “high net worth” divorces in a general sense. Every divorce case is important to the people involved. However, unless your divorce involves extreme degrees of fault on the part of one spouse or extreme degrees of wealth in the marriage it probably does not make sense to work through the process of trying to hire A private investigator.

For example, a private investigator can pose as another person to be as discreet as possible when it comes to trying to collect evidence. If you suspect that your spouse is spending large amounts of cash on drugs but have no physical proof of this, then you may want to consider hiring a private investigator to help investigate. The private investigator could go to the place(s) where you believe that the drugs are being purchased or used by your spouse to take photographs or obtain other evidence that you would not be able to get your hands on in normal circumstances. 

Another situation where the use of a private investigator may be helpful is if you are just trying to locate your spouse. If you and your spouse separated from one another years ago but never bothered to file for divorce you may find yourself in a situation now where you want to get a divorce but are having trouble locating your spouse. While you can certainly file for divorce even if you are having difficulty locating your spouse you cannot move forward with the case until he or she can be found. 

Why is that? Since your spouse will need to be served with notice of the divorce for you to get divorced. That notice could be an "actual" notice where you can track down your spouse and have a process server or law enforcement officer hand him or her the paperwork. Or the notice could be "constructive" where you were not able to track him or her down but that the court allows you to serve him or her via posting an advertisement in a newspaper, certified mailing the notice to their last known address, or posting the notice on the steps to the courthouse. 

A private investigator can help when you can’t find your spouse because he or she has access to databases, websites, and other sources of information that your attorney may not. These would not be illegal means, but they would be informational sources that cost money and are not usually in the "arsenal" of a family law attorney. Some websites will claim to tell you information about an unreliable person. This is where a private investigator can come in handy. 

Surveillance is another part of what many private investigators perform as job duties for their clients. Being able to be present in a place and go undetected is a skill that private investigators hone over a period. This can be an invaluable tool if your private investigator needs to be discreet or is going somewhere dangerous to obtain information about your spouse for the divorce. The private investigator can take photos of your spouse, and their paramour or video certain events that may be relevant to your case. 

If you believe that your spouse’s business is more lucrative or valuable than he or she is letting on, then a private investigator may be just who you need to help you confirm your suspicions. The investigator can help you to identify hidden assets by conducting research, talking to people in that community, or just generally following a paper trail that you provide him or her with. 

Listen to the advice of your attorney

Your attorney can make recommendations to you regarding a private investigator.  The attorney will have experience in working with people who can be counted on to perform investigator services discreetly, and efficiently and deliver results that can have a tangible benefit to your case. An investigator should be certified by the state of Texas. This means that the investigator will have a certain level of experience and skill that you can rely upon in hiring him or her. 

You and your attorney should sit down with the private investigator before deciding to hire him or her. Asking questions about their methods, level of experience and the sort of results he or she has provided for prior clients would be important questions to ask the person that you are considering hiring. It is reasonable to want to see what the person has produced for other people in your circumstances before feeling comfortable enough to pay him or her money to work for you.

Hiring a private investigator can change the tone of your case. It is not uncommon for your opposing spouse to also hire a private investigator to investigate you and your life once you do the same to him or her. While the threat of this sort of action should not be enough to deter you from considering hiring a private investigator it is a factor that is relevant to many divorces. What sort of skeletons do you have in your closet? Is there anything that a private investigator could discover about you that could be potentially harmful or outweigh the information discovered about your spouse? Think about this before deciding to pursue a private investigator for your divorce.

In most cases, however, the primary consideration when hiring a private investigator for divorce is simply whether the juice that you get from the process is worth the squeeze of the orange. If the effort, time, and expense outweigh the potential information that can be obtained then the effort would not have been worth it. If you have minimal assets and nothing major to gain from hiring the private investigator then the information that the person comes up with will not be worth the money that you spend on him or her. While it may feel good to hold your spouse accountable for their actions, this alone probably does not justify hiring a private investigator in most circumstances.

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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