The days of old-school marital surveillance stakeouts are pretty much gone for private investigators. Here’s how it works today.During the past 37 years, our agency has conducted thousands of cases where we follow a suspected cheating husband, wife or partner in an effort to provide evidence of the affair. We call these jobs marital surveillances, in all 50 states and numerous foreign countries. We have kept accurate statistics in a number of categories that have remained consistent over these almost four decades:
- 80% of our clients are women, 20% are men
- We catch 97% of the subjects we follow in the act
- Most subjects are caught within the first 4-8 hours of the surveillance
- When we catch the husband, women are divided on what to do; 33% want to work it out (counseling), 33% want a divorce and 33% don’t know what to do
- When we catch the wife, men want a divorce 99.9% of the time. They simply don’t have the DNA to forgive or entertain counseling.
- The single biggest mistake made by persons divorcing is selecting the wrong attorney
In our new book, Seeing Life Through Private Eyes, (Published by Rowman & Littlefield), we deal directly with this subject matter in two different chapters.
- Chapter Two, “Martial Adventures” details some of our more famous marital cases, top twenty signs your partner is cheating and some sage advise from Lisa Hughes, one of the nation’s top family law attorneys.
- Chapter Three, “The Nuts and Bolts of Divorce,” has detailed information on how to prepare for the divorce process, the 155 most asked questions in a divorce and more wisdom from another world-class family law attorney, Jacqueline A. Whisnant.
During our recent book tour, reporters and TV and radio personalities were very surprised that marital surveillance jobs, over these many years, represents only 5-8% of our annual income. This number has been fairly consistent for us since 1981. That stat has now fallen to 1%. The general public has a perception of private investigators that is largely influenced by their portrayal in Hollywood: Wearing a trench coat, a plaid fedora and chewing on a pipe or small cigar while peering around the corner at a scoundrel mate. Most top PI agencies have their workload heavily invested with corporate America, attorneys and the insurance industry.
The PI agencies who do nothing but perform marital surveillance jobs have fallen on hard times. Over the past three to four years, there has been a steady decline in the investigative establishment for people wanting their spouses followed.
In the past, people wanted evidence and a sense of finality. They also wanted to prove to their mate that they were not imaging the infidelity and also disproving the claim by their spouse of, “you are crazy and just imaging things.” This would mean a consultation with a PI, hopefully in an office. This intake sheet would provide a description of the subject, photos, work, play and home addresses, vehicle and license description, any information on the co-subject (paramour) and when and where to start the surveillance. A minimum retainer of $750.00 would cover our four-hour minimum at $150.00/hour, $0.95/mile and expenses. Included was a full written report with photographs and video.
Those days are pretty much gone. Here is how it works today.
It might not come to divorce, but if it does, having the evidence can make all the difference in a favorable divorce settlement.The client, Laura, calls one of my offices and advises she simply needs to have a photo taken of her husband, John, when he meets his lover. Laura is smart: She wants the photo taken so she can cover her bases: If she needs to use it as evidence in a court of law during divorce proceedings, she’ll want a photo that will be considered admissible as evidence. This is critical: Not all PI’s gather evidence in this manner. All of the PI’s at Martin Investigative Services do.
It might not come to divorce, but if it does, she’s ready… having the evidence can make all the difference in a favorable divorce settlement.
Laura has already gleaned the fact that her husband is cheating… she already has most of the information we would traditionally have to obtain in a surveillance. Her dummy husband has listed all the gory details on his phone, computer or tablet.
Laura said she saw on John’s iPhone that he was meeting Mary Lou at the No-Tell motel on Friday at 7:00 p.m. They were to have dinner and then spend the night together while he was supposedly on a business trip. John had even sent a text to Mary Lou saying that they would be in room 1038 but should go separately so they weren’t seen together in the hotel.
So Laura will say to me, “How much would it cost to have one of your investigators just snap a photo of them at dinner? How much would it cost to get a photo of them separately at the hotel?” No lengthy surveillance jobs needed. We can eliminate the need for two or three investigators to follow in heavy traffic or difficult destinations spots. Just get me a photo. I have screen shots of all calendar entries and text messages to the co-subject.
We have had the same scenario with our male clients. Women who are cheating have less to do with the digital specifics on where they will meet their lover but are off the charts when it comes to texting explicit messages on how the evening will go and why.
Most are X-rated.
When I’m asked now about this new phenomenon that has been developing over the past few years, I have a standard response. Previously, marital surveillances could be challenging, demanding and stressful. It was hard to get that photographic “money-shot.”
Gathering evidence today is like shooting fish in a barrel.