Custody and Divorce cases are probably the most difficult cases to investigate. A quote by Jonathan Edwards: “There are always two sides to every story” and indeed there are. Between both lies the truth.
In this blog we will concentrate on “Custody”: Usually the court awards custody prior to the final decree when the divorce is final, or at the original custody hearing. When physical custody is awarded to a sole parent it has either been a joint decision or one parent has been proven in court to be unfit. Unfit could suggest that one parent isn’t financially able to care for the children on a fulltime basis, or that one parent isn’t employed, doesn’t have proper living quarters, etc. Additionally, unfit could indicate an alcohol or drug addiction, abusive behavior or mental instability.
What happens when the non-custodial parent files a change of custody? Our investigation could take different paths depending upon who we are working with, the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent.
Example of an investigation when we are working with the current custodial parent: We would request all information as to why the non-custodial parent was denied custody at the time of the divorce or the initial custody hearing. We would ask if there have been any changes in the life of the custodial parent, i.e. loss of job, relationship issues, change of residency and/or any other reason why the change of custody was requested. We would also want to know if either parent is being represented by an attorney. If our perspective Client has retained an attorney, usually our company would be referred by that law firm. We would want to have “Attorney Client Privilege”, therefore all work product would be sent directly to the attorney and he/she would be our Client.
If nothing has changed regarding the custodial parent, then the direction of the investigation would only entail the lifestyle of the non-custodial parent and any association they may have with others. We may run background checks to determine if they are linked to any criminal histories or a civil check for any court litigations. We may run a driving history that would show any DUI’s (driving ability), and if we are to conduct surveillance, obtain all registered vehicles linked. If the case required surveillance, we would recommend surveillance be conducted during a visitation period to observe activity. If they are forbidden to drive, visit a particular entity or person, are not to participate in a certain activity with the child(ren) present, we would video document any activity that would be considered inappropriate behavior.
Many times, the parent filing for change of custody will continue whatever lifestyle they are living, even under the recommendation of their attorney to be “On their best behavior”. Therefore, if they drink, they will continue to do so, if they visit a location they are forbidden by the court, they will still visit. We have observed the non-custodial parent to feel they are above being instructed what to do.
If the court awarded joint physical custody or even visitation and one parent has had a change of lifestyle that would be considered unhealthy or unsafe for the child(ren) we would ask the same questions and conduct the same type of investigation.
In the event that pornography is alleged by either party, the attorney may request forensic computer data recovery, recover deleted files on phone, and/or take a lie detector test.
The final report would include any documentation obtained from research, the dates and times of surveillance along with still photos to include a copy of the video from observation of any activity.
If you find yourself in a custody battle, a third-party observation may be just what you and your attorney need to win your case.
All in Investigations, Inc.
Brenda McGinley, CEO