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Should I Hire A Private Investigator for My Divorce or Other Family Law Case?


Private investigators can often be helpful in family law cases and in certain circumstances, where there are needs in your case to prove or provide the court evidence of concerns, the information that a private investigator can provide can be crucial to a case.

When Might a Private Investigator Be Valuable?

Some spouses need or want (for the emotional decision-making they are going through) to have a solid determination or evidence as to whether an affair is taking place. Often, people have suspicion about an affair, but have no way of actually confirming it. If a spouse denies having an affair, this leaves the other person in the situation of questioning “circumstantial” evidence that may have occurred, without the ability to really have a solid understanding of the situation.

In other circumstances, a P.I. might be helpful if you have concerns about the safety of your children, for example, whether the other parent is driving unsafely, consuming alcoholic drinks and then driving with your children, leaving them unattended in a residence or something else contrary to the best interests of the children that seriously compromises their physical safety or emotional well-being. Alternatively, some parents will hire a private investigator to gather evidence that the other parent is not abiding by the judgment or order in place for example, the right of first refusal to prove the other parent is not honoring the right to care for the children when he or she is not available. In other circumstances, a parent may be concerned about a person the other parent is dating or allowing to have substantial contact around the children. Again, it is important in these circumstances to consult with legal counsel to make sure you are gathering information in an appropriate manner that assists your case.

Termination of Maintenance or Alimony Payments

In many courts in Kansas or Missouri, the maintenance payments ordered to be paid to a former spouse can be terminated if you can prove that the party receiving maintenance is living with a significant other in a marital or marital-like relationship of sharing expenses, also known as “cohabitation.” It is important, if your private investigator is going to try to obtain information that they understand the law and definition behind cohabitation so that they are able to find and prove sufficient evidence to assist your case. Again, this is why you need to engage a knowledgeable family law attorney to assist you.

What Should You Do If you Believe You Need to Hire a Private Investigator?

Generally the best first step is to consult with legal counsel if you are considering hiring a private investigator. It is important that you understand what rights and responsibilities you have in terms of working with a private investigator. Obviously, in trying to “catch” the other parent or other party, you do not want to create other legal issues or concerns for yourself. Additionally, if you are considering a strategy to employ a private investigator, you should not share this plan with any third parties. In many situations, the person that someone is having an affair with is a close friend or acquaintance of the family. For this reason, it is generally best for your strategy and information gathering that you not disclose your suspicions to any other third parties. There are occasions when your attorney should be the one to hire the private investigator so that their involvement is attorney work product and protected from disclosure should you need such protection. Finally, it is important that you discuss with your attorney if any information gathered by a private investigator is going to be valuable to your case. For example, if you have only been married a year and there are not any meaningful assets to divide, it is probably not worth the money or expense to hire a private investigator.

Do not hire a friend or close acquaintance to help you with the private investigative information you are looking for.. The friend may not understand the laws behind their actions (which could ultimately be attributable to you) and in many jurisdictions, a private investigator is required to be licensed. If the investigation that is conducted on your behalf is not done legally and appropriately, you risk harassment, stalking or other kinds of criminal or civil allegations against you.

What should you do with the information you obtain from the private investigator?

There are occasions where the information you learn should not be used any further than the information gathering. On the other hand, if you gather information that is valuable to your case process, you should start by discussing/reviewing the information gathered with your legal counsel to determine how the information is going to best benefit your case.

What Should You Do to Prepare to Work with a Private Investigator?

In consultation with your family law attorney, you should make a list of concerns/items you want to investigate. Additionally, you should work to create/maintain a journal of events that make you concerned or suspicious so that the private investigator you are working with can review and see patterns and other happenings. This often will allow the private investigator to formulate a plan for investigation, with the best time to conduct their surveillance and minimize the costs of surveillance.

If you believe that hiring a private investigator for a divorce or family law case in Kansas or Missouri is going to be necessary for your case, please contact us at Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130 to schedule a consultation to develop a plan to address the needs of your case.