How Private Investigators Help With Child Custody Disputes

Child custody disputes are common with shared custody. Often times, they are a matter of parents arguing over time with the children and discipline issues. These are commonplace in any parenting situation. However, children are sometimes placed in dangerous situations that can be difficult to prove.   If this is the case, you will need hard evidence before a judge will consider modifying the agreement. This is where the private investigator comes in.  

Definite Proof

I have worked many cases where children were abandoned while in the custody of a parent. A recent one involved a dad that would leave his twelve year old alone from 11 pm – 5 am while he visited his girlfriend 20 miles away. We got six nights of footage of him doing this. The custody agreement was modified only allowing the dad to have daytime visits with the child. He cared more about his girlfriend that he did his own child.   The proof we provided was legal and clear footage of him departing the home, of his car at his girlfriend’s home, and footage of him returning in the morning. The judge felt this was sufficient to modify the agreement.  

The Trash Grab

One client hired us to prove that her ex-husband was an alcoholic. The child reported that dad would drink during the day and late into the night often leaving the five year old in front of the television while he was passed out on the couch.  We conducted three trash grabs that revealed massive amounts of empty beer cans and hard liquor bottles. We are not talking about a few drinks here. It appeared to be enough liquor and beer to furnish a fraternity house. This was one man drinking this amount every week, all in the presence of a five year old child.  

“One investigator told me about one particular case he’d worked on, a child custody case, in which the garbage showed copious amounts of empty vodka bottles purchased and consumed over a very short amount of time, while the child was around. That kind of sad evidence was used to prove that one parent was unfit, something a mere description of a party or of excessive alcohol consumption wouldn’t do. “Dan Nosowitz  

This same man would take his child to the bar and restaurant to play trivia. He downed beer after beer while the little girl colored and then drove home. He got his custody removed temporarily once the evidence was presented.  

Old Fashioned Surveillance

I have people call me all the time and make wild allegations. I tell them they need proof, give them my fee, and they say it is too much. Custody investigations are very time consuming and any investigation worth the time will cost from $2,000 – $3,500.  It’s up to you to determine if the situation in the other home is worth the money it will cost to prove it.       During child custody cases, investigators will conduct surveillance to see who is coming and going from the residence where your child is staying.  This is where investigators pull tag numbers and get video of people outside the home. The question arises often, “Can you get inside and see what is going on?” There are two answers to this question.  

  1. Investigators cannot break in. This is illegal.
  2. An undercover operation to infiltrate the subject’s circle of friends can take months. You can triple the cost of the investigation if this is what you want. This will increase the chance of the investigator being compromised. Yes, it can be done, and it is legal, but undercover operations are extensive in both scope and time.

  Observing the home serves a few purposes. If the other parent is having wild parties and keeping the children up all night, the investigator will document this. If there are strange cars hanging around the home throughout the night, the investigator will document the license plates and find out who the owners are. Often, these people have extensive criminal histories and sometimes are listed on the sex offender registry.  

Some of the elements that a private investigator may try to include in his or her surveillance include reckless driving, criminal activity, gambling, drug abuse or other activities that may have a negative impact on the children. Additionally, the investigator may look for any signs that the parent is not providing a safe and hygienic living space, food or necessities.If this is your concern, you need a private investigator to prove these people are around your children.”  

The police can help if there is criminal activity. However, if there is no immediate and obvious danger to the child, they are limited on how they can respond.  

Bottom Line

If you suspect your children are being placed in dangerous situations when with the other parent, you need unimpeachable evidence to make a case. A private investigator will combine surveillance, trash inventories, and interviews to get the evidence you need. Allegations do not work. You need definitive proof.

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