Divorce and child custody are polarizing topics in the United States. Divorce itself is an ugly business. Two people who stood in front of their friends and families and promised themselves to another now find themselves in a situation where the life they built together is over. Often it is a storm of heightened emotions, personal crises, mediation, negotiation, carping, and resentment. For many, children sit in the eye of the storm, helplessly witnessing the destruction of their family unit around them. As if this were not tumultuous enough, children often become silent pawns between two parents or caregivers who seek to hurt one another. When developing a strategy for navigating a custody situation, caregivers often do not consider the possibility of hiring a private investigator to help build a credible case for sole or partial custody.
Many couples who are on the brink of divorce, or already treading in the harsh current of proceedings, default to the advice of lawyers, the court system, and child services when it comes to issues of custody. There is a myriad of reasons for this, including a parent’s financial means, work schedule, health issues, and ignorance. What’s problematic about leaving issues of custody in the hands of lawyers and the courts is families in turmoil become files in a drawer. The decisions made on behalf of the legal system often rest on the review of a mountain of paperwork; courts relying on police reports, financial/asset summaries, psychological evaluations, et cetera. What’s on paper becomes the load bearing beam for any decision made regarding custody, because caregivers in conflict are both subject to scrutiny in their statements against the other.
Private investigators have a tool chest similar to that of law enforcement allowing them to document a subject’s movements, behavior, and treatment of their children—both prior to divorce proceedings and after. Members of law enforcement are often the most credible investigators in the eyes of the court. However, unless a criminal act is reported, such as domestic violence or child neglect, law enforcement has little to no involvement in custody cases. Parents without those tools at hand are left with little recourse. Any evidence they document themselves is subject to scrutiny by the courts and by opposing counsel as misrepresented, inaccurate, or downright false. In those cases, those parents trying to build a credible case against their co-parent or caregiver can be maligned as malicious by opposing counsel, and those details may prove to be to their detriment.
The number one advantage of hiring a private investigator to document a questionable parent’s behavior is their ability to move through any environment undetected. Despite the fact a study determined there was an excess of 78,000 private investigators employed in the United States alone in 2017, you’ll never see a good one in the field. Private investigators are trained to blend into the crowd and surveil inconspicuously in order to ensure the subject does not modify their behavior for the benefit of being watched. In addition to hiding in plain sight, part of maintaining success in their profession means staying up to date on the best available surveillance technology on the market in order to gather evidence for their cases. Things like cameras disguised as ink pens, or drones with quiet motors that will not be easily detected. Parents are on their very best behavior when in mediation or appearing before a judge, but private investigators can completely upset the current state of a custody case with evidence they uncover in the field. They can document things like abuse and neglect through photographs, video, audio recordings, witness testimony, and the same examination of vital documents that would be performed by the courts. Their training has equipped them to be on the lookout for things like substance dependency, such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or gambling problems. They can also document the opposing caregiver’s living conditions, whether or not the child is clean and well-fed, and their emotional wellness while in the care of said person. What makes a private investigator a particularly valuable asset is they are an objective third-party. Even if they have in fact been paid by one party in a custody case, misrepresentation of facts on their part may mollify their client in the moment, but will ultimately hurt their integrity with future business. Due to this, private investigators can become unimpeachable witnesses to behavior they’ve seen on the part of the opposing side that would damage the child’s well-being.
Private investigators can take on child custody cases at many different levels, all of which can be beneficial to the parent who wishes to establish a case against another parent or caregiver who they perceive to have questionable integrity. As with any investigation, the sooner the process of documenting and gathering evidence starts, the stronger a foundation the parent will have when they present their case before a judge. Parents who are considering divorcing a co-parent or caregiver and intend to establish a pattern of unfitness should consult a private investigator right away. The subject is more likely to proceed as they would normally prior to news that their partner is taking them to court. While the subject may not suspect they are being legally surveilled during a divorce proceeding, they are aware of the fact that—at a minimum—their behavior and actions during that time will be taken under consideration by the courts. The time to start collecting evidence is before divorce papers are drawn up and served.
However, it’s no mystery circumstances may not allow for this. Events prompting divorce proceedings may be very sudden, allowing no time for a hyper-covert investigation on behalf of the client. Parents who are in abusive relationships may not have access to the financial resources for this kind of initiative. As such, many private investigators enter the case when divorce is already a reality and custody proceedings are in full swing. One of the major criticisms of the court system in custody cases is children are often defaulted to the custody of their mothers, leaving fit fathers or other caregivers with few options. In one such example, an investigator from Indianapolis, IN was hired to investigate the parental fitness of a mother fighting her ex-husband and his parents for custody of their eight-year-old daughter. The child was shuttled back and forth between her mother and father’s respective homes for a few months while family court proceedings moved at a glacial pace. The father became increasingly concerned about his daughter while she was in her mother’s custody, and hired a private investigator to find answers. The investigator uncovered the mother’s place of residence on the record was dilapidated, dirty, and not at all a suitable environment for a child. Additionally, the investigator found the mother’s new husband had a criminal record, regularly used drugs, and had questionable judgement when it came to things like social media interaction and encounters with law enforcement. This led to the father retaining full custody of his daughter, with the mother being allowed only supervised visits. This investigative strategy is a two-way street, meaning that a parent who has been falsely accused of abuse or neglect in order to limit access to their child can hire a private investigator to disprove these claims, document the proper living conditions for the child in question, and secure evidence of malicious intent on behalf of the caregiver making false allegations.
Children should never be used as chess pawns in a messy divorce. Ultimately, any child custody investigation should be about the child’s safety and well-being—not about which parent is righteous in their indignation. A private investigator’s expertise, testimony, and lack of bias can shine a crisp, contextual light on the muddied waters of a child custody case.
From the Desk of Kristen Justis, Director of Marketing and Customer Relations
Alimony is defined as a husband or wife’s court-ordered provision for a spouse after separation or divorce. The purpose of alimony is to provide financial support to a spouse due to the change in their lifestyle upon the separation. While only 20 states still allow alimony, Lauth Investigations International, Inc. (Lauth) receives several clients due to provisions for alimony in a divorce.
Only 20 states allow for alimony and some are stricter than others on their provisions. The stricter states allow alimony to be a permanent obligation for life. Others allow receivers of alimony to receive further income should their ex marry another. Meaning, if the payor marries another, the new spouse will be obligated to pay some of their income to the receiver. Some states have a set formula giving the lower income spouse alimony of up to 40% of the higher income spouse’s salary. Below is the list of the states starting with the strictest states when it comes it alimony:
Every divorce and alimony decree are different. Some only requires alimony for a few years, while some require alimony to be permanent until death, others stipulate alimony ceases once the receiver of the alimony resides with a new companion, while some allows the new spouse of the payor has to pay a percentage into the alimony. The set time for alimony is clear cut for the ending of alimony payments. The alimony ending when the receiver resides with a new companion is far more difficult to document and prove to the Court.
Alimony Case Investigation
Lauth previously handled an investigation case for the payor of alimony as he believed his ex-wife to be living with a new spouse. This may seem like an easy thing to prove given our access to records on the internet and social media; however, people still have the means to be secretive and manipulative where money is concerned.
Trent, payor of alimony, resides in a state which ordered him to pay Mallory, receiver of alimony, $3,000 per month until Mallory began to reside with a new spouse. Since the divorce several years ago, Mallory moved out of state. Trent began to hear rumblings of Mallory living with a new spouse. He perused social media and saw her with a man several times; however, this did not prove they lived together. Trent began to do some research on his own.
Through his digging on the internet, Trent was able to confirm Mallory had purchased a home along with this new gentleman. Although it may appear they purchased the home to live together, this was not enough information for the Court to cease the alimony requirement. This is where Lauth comes in. Trent hired Lauth to get the full details of the living arrangement and use of the home in question.
The problem of just showing the two individuals purchasing the home together is they could be in business together to flip the home for sale, rent the home to others, starting a business in the home, etc. In order to receive a ruling for alimony to cease, all information must be concrete and prove fully the receiver is no longer in need of the spousal support as they have other forms of income.
The internet provides useful information; however, private investigators, such as Lauth, are able to answer all questions beyond a shadow of a doubt for clients. Lauth was able to locate the home, complete surveillance of the home, take pictures of Mallory and her significant other leaving the home consistently, and find further information on the use of the home. After given definitive proof from Lauth, Trent was able to show the Court Mallory no longer needs his spousal support. The Court ruled in his favor and he is now saving $3,000 per month.
When looking to get married, check out the laws in your state and consult an attorney. If there is an alimony law, attempt to establish a prenuptial agreement outlining your own parameters for alimony. If you are getting divorce, contact an attorney immediately and try to work with your ex-spouse on alternative agreements such as a one-time lump sum or a time period so the alimony is not a permanent requirement.
If you are paying or receiving alimony, ensure you stay aware of what the other is doing. On either side of the alimony, the actions of the other can cost or save a lot of money. The best way to stay aware is to work with a private investigator who can keep you updated without your name being involved and allowing you to get definitive answers to help you in Court.
How can an Indianapolis private investigator help keep my child safe during divorce or child custody dispute?
All too common in today’s headlines are stories involving children who have been abused. While we worry about our children’s safety around strangers, we sometimes fail to take the proper precautions to keep children safe in their own environments. Private investigators specializing in child custody investigations work directly with an attorney to generate a formative case for impeachment. Child custody investigators are trained to investigate and detect child abuse, neglect, substance and alcohol abuse, and other behaviors that may endanger a child. The information gathered by a qualified child custody private investigator about a custodial or non-custodial parent during a legal custody investigation, can uncover behavior that places a child at risk of harm, while also documenting the incidents of concern. This is a critical step in ensuring the information gathered during the child custody investigation can be presented in court if necessary. During cases of separation and divorce, no corner should be cut when considering the safety of a child, and a qualified private investigator can literally save a child’s life.
Why is it important to utilize a private investigator specializing in child custody investigations?
Any separation or divorce is an emotional time during one’s life. At times, the situation can become volatile. While a parent’s first priority should be the child’s safety and emotional stability, it is not uncommon for parents to make false allegations to restrict the other parent’s access to the child. Unfortunately, children commonly become the pawns during a divorce and child custody case. Utilizing a private investigator specializing in custodial investigations can reduce incidents of false accusations, substantiate legitimate allegations, and ensure the child’s well-being is first priority.
Ideally, a qualified and licensed private investigator is hired to conduct the child custody investigation and work directly with an attorney during the pre-filing phase. The private investigator and the attorney handling the case work together to ensure all concerns are addressed prior to filing the case in court. This also ensures as much information as possible is presented to the court during the initial phase of the child custody case.
What happens during a child custody investigation?
A child custody investigator can document critical information during exchanges and visitations to chronicle how the child is treated while in the care of the other parent. Gathering evidence supporting mistreatment or neglect of a child during a legal custody investigation can entail interviewing the other parent, questioning witnesses, and conducting background checks on all parties involved in the child’s care. In addition, an experienced private investigator will conduct an on-site assessment of the child’s home can determine if the child is being cared for in a suitable environment by evaluating the cleanliness of the home and those who reside in, or frequently visit the home.
Also very common is utilizing video surveillance to document the parent’s behavior while the child is in their care, documenting those the parent associates with and who the parent may be exposing the child to, if the parent is participating in an illegal of reckless behavior, and any incidents of abuse such as keeping record of any bruises or injuries. Hiring a licensed child custody investigator ensures the investigation is conducted legally and the quality of evidence gathered can be used in a court of law. If required, the investigator will also provide expert court testimony.
Should I hire a child custody private investigator and what should I be doing?
In court, judges commonly hear accusations from both sides. At times it becomes very difficult to determine who may be telling the truth and if concerns are warranted. Evidence presented in court by a licensed private investigator provides documented proof of allegations the court must take into consideration when making a ruling in a child custody case. It is especially important to present an accurate representation of a person’s character during any court case and even more important when children’s lives are impacted.
If you suspect the other parent may be abusing your child emotionally or physically while in their care, it is important to substantiate those concerns. While hiring an investigator can guide and assist you, keeping a journal of any negative events, comments your child makes that are of concern, comments or threats the other parent makes to you, are helpful. Especially important, document any injuries the child has sustained in the care of the other parent by keeping written record and photographs of the injuries. Also, record any medical treatment received by a medical professional.
If you suspect the other parent may be drinking excessively or involved in substance abuse while caring for the child, a private investigator can document the other parent’s actions by observing their daily activities, document those who come and go at the residence, and detect drug and alcohol abuse.
If you suspect the other parent is neglectful, participating in any kind of criminal behavior, or associating with individuals who may have a criminal background, it is best to have a private investigator perform a comprehensive background check on the other parent, anyone that resides with the parent or has interaction with your child. It is important to keep in mind, most incidents of child abuse and child death, occur within the home of a child and injuries inflicted by those trusted to care for the child.
If you are not certain who the other parent is associating with, a private investigator can conduct surveillance to document who is coming and going at the home, even documenting license plates to determine the identity of individuals permitted to be in close proximity or care for your child.
If you are concerned about how a child custody investigation may affect your child, it is important to know professional private investigators are highly trained in child custody investigations to utilize investigative methods that minimize exposure of the child to the investigation. In fact, most investigations can be conducted without the child ever knowing, as the investigator is there to protect the child and serve in their best interest.
When children’s safety is in question, it is always best to be safe than sorry. If no questionable behavior is uncovered, everyone can feel secure knowing the child is in safe hands with two loving and responsible parents.
About the Author: Kym L. Pasqualini is founder of the Nation’s Missing Children Organization in 1994 and the National Center for Missing Adults in 2000. Kym is an expert in the field of missing persons and continues to advocate for crime victims utilizing 20 years’ experience working with government officials, law enforcement, advocates, private investigators, and national media.
Fighting for custody of your children is the most important battle you’ll ever wage. Losing the right to see your kids and spend time with them as you see fit isn’t something anyone should face alone. Custody battles can be long, intimidating, and costly. You need every resource at your disposal to make sure you have the upper hand at every stop. Here are five ways private investigators can make sure you’re not alone in the fight of your life.
1. Did you really know your ex?
How well do you know your ex? When you got married you certainly believed you knew her inside and out, but you also didn’t believe you’d end up divorced. Splitting up will change how you view one another. You’ll start seeing flaws you never noticed before and having questions you thought you knew the answer too. You thought you knew her before you got married, but did you?
When did you first meet your ex? Have you known her since grade school or did you meet later in life? Are you certain this was her first marriage? Does she have a criminal history she kept hidden from you? Where has she worked and why did she change jobs? Private investigators can answer all of these questions and more by running extensive background checks and personally verifying the information for you.
2. Who’s coming and going?
When you and your ex shared a home, you consulted each other before inviting people over. Together you decided who you did and didn’t want inside your house. Now that you’re apart, those determinations will be made separately, which might be cause for concern.
It’s one thing for your ex to bring people over when the kids aren’t there, but what about when they are? Who’s coming and going from the house and what are they doing? Maybe the increase in visitors is nothing. Maybe someone selling drugs from the house.
In an ideal world you’d ask your ex what’s going on and get a straight answer, but that’s likely not the case. Divorce can create tension and difficulty in communication. One way to avoid a big fight that won’t get you the answers you want is to hire a private investigator. An investigator can surveil the home and determine who is stopping by and why. P.I.s will get you vital information while avoiding the drama of asking your ex.
3. Are my kids safe and clean?
Children need a comfortable and clean environment. It’s vital to their development that they have a space they can relax and feel safe in. Who took care of the house when you and your ex were still together? Have your kids made comments about their mom not keeping the house tidy like she should?
It should be easy to find out about the condition of your ex’s place, but maybe she won’t let you in out of embarrassment or scorn. If she’s having a rough time dealing with the divorce it’s possible she’s depressed and not taking care of things like your children deserve. Private investigators can determine the condition of her home and help you ensure your kids are safe and comfortable.
4. Where is your ex taking you children and are they safe?
Worried about where your ex takes your children during her visitation time? At least when she stays home you know they’re somewhere safe and controlled. They’re in a familiar place and near a phone in case of an emergency. What happens when she packs the kids into the car and goes somewhere else though?
Depending on the age of your children they might need booster seats when they ride in the car. Are they to small to safely ride in the front seat? Is your ex properly placing them in safety restraints? Is she making sure they put their seat belts on every time they travel? Where is she taking your kids?
People deal with stress differently. Some people take up knitting or learn to play a musical instrument. Others find themselves seeking the comfort of a bottle or narcotic. Are you sure your children aren’t being driven around to liquor stores and bad neighborhood’s where your ex picks up her supplies?
Private investigators can answer all of these question with mobile surveillance. Investigators can track your ex to make sure your children aren’t being placed in dangerous positions. Not only can P.I.s let you know where your children are being taken and how, but they can document instances of child endangerment for evidence in court.
5. Who are these people?
Splitting up with your ex means going in different directions and starting new lives. Building a new life requires developing new social circles. When you were married you knew you were coming home to each other and your kids every evening. Now that you’re apart, other people will begin filling that void.
Can you trust your ex to keep you informed about the strangers she’s bringing around your children? Maybe she genuinely trusts these people, but how good has her judgement been in the past? She might be a little too trusting for your comfort.
Private investigators can give you peace of mind by figuring out who she’s introducing to your children. Running background checks and surveillance will give you a clear picture of who’s interacting with your children and whether you should be concerned or not. Be certain that your kids are safe and know for sure if they’re not
For Private Investigation Inquiry contact Thomas Lauth, Lauth Investigations 317-951-1100
David Schroeder, Blog Writer, Lauth Investigations International
Divorce is difficult. Even more so when children are involved. Figuring out custodial agreements is challenging and presents opportunities for disagreement that can span years. It’s important that parents understand all of the resources available to them and how private investigators can be valuable assets in the fight to protect their children and secure custody.
Is your child coming home with signs of abuse?
If you suspect your child is being abused, you need to begin documenting all of the evidence immediately. Bruises or marks, no matter how small or faint, must be photographed as soon as they are noticed. Photographic evidence is some of the strongest evidence you can produce.
It can be difficult to prove child abuse has taken place. Depending on the age of the child they may not be able to articulate exactly what happened. If the abuse was traumatic enough it could cause confusion when the child tries to explain what occured. The importance of adequately documenting potential abuse cannot be overstated.
Private investigators have the equipment and insight to properly record suspected instances of abuse. Dealing with the court system is a private investigator’s forte and they understand what the courts need to see and how it must be presented to prompt the courts to take action. When it comes to your child’s safety, you cannot afford to delay seeking help.
I’m concerned my ex is using drugs around our children.
Across America a heroin epidemic is breaking out. Drug abuse is impacting people of all social and economic backgrounds. Recently a picture circulated news and social media of two adults passed out from a heroin overdose in their SUV while a four-year-old boy sat helplessly in the back seat.
The female in the passenger seat is the boy’s grandmother. She lost consciousness after shooting-up while her boyfriend drove. Upon being stopped by police for driving erratically, the boyfriend passed out too. The grandmother had only had custody of the boy for 5 weeks when this occurred.
No one knew the grandmother’s heroin abuse was so bad or she never would’ve been granted custody in the first place. But this raises the question of how anyone could have known her addiction was this in strong? What red flags were missed that could’ve kept this boy out of danger? Was this the first time the couple used drugs with the child present?
Private investigators are trained to pay attention to and take note of people’s abnormal behavior. Surveillance by a P.I. may have led to the discovery of the grandmother’s drug abuse before the child was put in this potentially fatal scenario.Thankfully the police were able to intervene and get the boy to safety.
My ex isn’t spending their visitation time with our kids. What can I do?
When the courts determine visitation time they do so expecting the parents to spend that time with their child. This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes the parent will take the child for visitation time, but drop them off with a family member or baby sitter.
One parent passing their child off to someone else during visitation time not only deprives the child of time quality time, but it prevents the other parent from seeing their child as well. Depending on your state and custodial agreement, it’s possible it’s a violation of the law as well.
The Right of First Refusal stipulates that when one parent plans to have a third party babysit their child during visitation time, they must first give the other parent a chance to say they will or won’t watch the child instead. Private Investigators can provide records and documentation that demonstrates when visitation isn’t being properly utilized to make sure the parents who want time with their child are getting it.
I’m worried about the new people my ex is bringing around our kids.
One of the scarier parts of a divorce is knowing sooner or later your child is going to be introduced to new people you won’t get the chance to know beforehand. No one wants their child around strangers, but it’s an inevitable reality of separate parenting. It’s possible the new people in your ex’s life are wonderful, but why take any chances?
Private investigators can help alleviate these concerns. Investigators routinely perform background checks that can help you to better know who’s around your child. Concerned about where your children are being taken when they’re not with you? Surveillance can keep you informed about your children’s condition and whereabouts when you can’t be there.
For Private Investigation Inquiry contact Thomas Lauth, Lauth Investigations 317-951-1100
David Schroeder, Blog Writer, Lauth Investigations International