Every year, we perform thousands of marital surveillance cases. In nearly all the cases where the parties end up getting divorced, you’re also going to see financial infidelity or the hiding of assets.
Our case of the week involves Deanna, who had us follow her husband, Bill, during a recent Friday night out with “the boys.” Not surprisingly, Bill was caught having dinner in a prominent Los Angeles eatery with a female companion. They were later followed to a local hotel where they spent the night.
Deanna was done with the marriage and made contact with a family law attorney that we recommended to her. Once served, Bill eventually had to disclose his financial statements including all assets and liabilities. As often happens, Deanna was stunned that the numbers showed they were very near the poverty level. Of course, this was all a fairy-tale created by the husband in an effort not to pay the appropriate alimony and child support.
During the past few months, the Internet and media has been abuzz with stories about relationships and the “financial infidelity” problem. In many venues, this is being touted as a very new phenomenon among couples, be they married or not. For our company, based on the thousands of marital surveillances and subsequent dissolution of marriage cases in which we have been involved, this is really old news.
Many current surveys compare financial cheating to that of sexual infidelity and draw the conclusion that they are equally damaging to a relationship. Our experience is the money problem is high on the list of reasons that leads to divorce, but certainly not the deal-breaker that having an affair will cause.
It is very rare (it’s happened maybe 10 times in the past 50+ years) to have someone retain us to do an asset/financial search on their mate when it is not connected to a divorce case. You don’t need a private investigator for that service. Be your own detective: review tax returns, bank, savings and checking accounts, retirement portfolios and credit cards. Certainly do this while the marriage is in a good place.
Female clients comprise 80% of our martial cases, and they are usually pleased to let their husbands take care of the finances during the course of a marriage. When the wheels fall off, panic sets in as they have no financial awareness as to their own personal plight or what the husband makes, spends or hides. Many blindly sign their own tax returns. They really need a private investigator at that point. Many husbands, once served, will dissipate assets and announce that their salary has taken a sudden downward spiral.
Most private investigators offer a basic asset/background search for clients going through the divorce process. You can always request this search when the marriage is great, but you might feel lost in knowing what monies are coming in or going out. Fees will vary from $300 to $1,500, depending on the quality of the service and whether the company you hire has their own in-house computer system.
Beware of the private investigator who just uses the Internet. That’s something you can do for free. Free internet searches are basically of little or no value and certainly do not make the grade as court-ready documents. Make sure the work product is admissible in court and that the private investigator of record will sign off and testify to the veracity of the report contents.
Here is a list of the minimum indexes that should be researched by your private investigator:
- Twenty year address history
- Obtaining or confirming the subject’s SS# and date of birth
- SS# or date of birth being used other than their own
- Name of anyone using their SS# including their address
- Nationwide real property
- Nationwide consumer public filing index which should include as a minimum all bankruptcies, notice of defaults, judgments, tax liens and problems with the IRS
- Corporate and limited partnership information
- Uniform commercial code index information
- Civil (plaintiff and defendant) and Criminal (felonies and misdemeanors) records where available
- Fictitious business name index
- Professional licensing
- Name and addresses of neighbors and businesses for interview purposes
There are a few investigative offices that conduct bank, savings and checking account searches, as well as stocks, bonds and securities searches. Make sure your private investigator acknowledges that all the work completed is done so under the rules and regulations of (at a minimum) The Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA), The Fair Credit Reporting Act and The Privacy Act.
There are many fakers and pretenders in the business, so be very careful when putting down your hard earned money for these services. These fees can be in the thousands of dollars, so do your homework and due diligence when choosing a private investigator.
Finally, there are some well-seasoned and experienced private investigators that can be of tremendous service to you as you navigate the financial obstacles in a divorce case. However, they are useless if the attorney you have is not knowledgeable in what to do with the investigator’s work product. We see this all the time in the family law court. This can be such a problem that if you have an attorney that we believe is sub-par, we will NOT provide you with our work product, no matter how loud you plead or how much money you have. You only end up being upset with the private investigator because you spent money for asset searches that never see the light of the courtroom or the eyes of the judge.
The National Lottery scam.