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Advice to PI Clients: Don’t Sabotage Your Case

A lot of our fellow private investigators on the criminal investigations side of things eschew the very idea of taking on domestic cases. For some, spending hours, days, or weeks tracking a straying wife or husband feels less important than interviewing prosecution witnesses, and a few seem to think there’s a tawdriness to divorce cases and domestic disputes that leaves them feeling a bit….dirty.

But domestic cases, if approached with understanding and respect, are not only good business, but can also be important, rewarding work. After all, what matters more in people’s lives than family? Generally, domestic clients hire us because they and their loved ones are at some kind of painful crossroads. They suspect that a family member is surreptitiously buying illegal drugs, associating with criminals, having an affair, or neglecting children. Some clients are so filled with fear, insecurity, and suspicion that they need an objective outsider to collect solid evidence for them, to illuminate the darkness of those raging emotions with the cold, hard light of irrefutable facts.

A professional, ethical investigator has a responsibility in cases like these to speak candidly with clients, whose minds are often clouded by anger or feelings of betrayal and helplessness. It’s crucial to clearly define the scope of each job before beginning. What is the client looking for? What specific facts will establish the truth? And how does the client intend to use those facts after the investigation is over?

Here are a few basic ideas we try to communicate to clients, to make sure we are giving them exactly what they need, to avoid wasting people’s money on unnecessary surveillance, and to prevent people from sabotaging their own cases:

  1. We are not therapists. Although we will listen with empathy and respect, you should consider speaking to a professional counselor about the trauma you’re experiencing, whether it’s a divorce, an affair, a spouse’s addiction, or a child custody battle. A great counselor is well worth his fee.
  2. Do not attempt to do your own PI work. Once you’ve hired us, do not follow, photograph, stake out, or surveille the person you’ve hired us to investigate, and do not send your friends to eyeball his driveway. He knows your car (and theirs) and all your moves, and you will most likely tip him off to the fact that he’s being watched. That puts him on his guard, makes our job ten times harder, and costs you lots more money in surveillance fees in the long run.
  3. Do not confront her. Until the case is closed, resist the urge to call her out on the information we’ve just delivered to you about her suspicious whereabouts last night. “How did you know that?” she’ll say. For the repercussions of this, refer to the latter half of #2. Confronting is your lawyer’s job. You’re paying your lawyer a lot of money, so don’t sabotage their work by showing your hand too early.
  4. Keep your distance. While the investigation is in progress, it’s best not to call him, drive by his house late at night, or rifle through his trash bin, no matter how crazy your obsessive thoughts are driving you. Keep your contact with him as minimal as possible, and keep it low-drama. Again, see #2.
  5. Be honest and realistic about what you want from us. If possible, think in specifics about what exact information you want and what you will do with it. Often, clients become so emotional about their cases that they aren’t sure when to quit. Once we collect the damning piece of evidence, or a series of facts that establish a behavior pattern, stop while you’re ahead. And then make a concrete plan with your attorney about how you will use the information to achieve your goals, whether they be gaining legal custody of kids, gaining an advantage in mediation, or confronting a spouse in a measured way about a troubling behavior.
  6. Micromanaging doesn’t work. We do this for a living, let us apply our expertise. If we suggest 2 or 3 investigators for a complicated moving surveillance one day, it’s because we really do need them. We absolutely will not nickel-and-dime you. We want to apply the proper tools and techniques to the job at hand, and sometimes that costs a bit of money. Paying three investigators for one productive night’s surveillance is often less expensive than paying one investigator for several days of solo (read burned) surveillance. What you don’t want is to waste your money by paying someone to perform a futile task. And believe me, moving surveillance through downtown at rush hour is (at the very best) difficult with three investigators and entirely futile with just one.
  7. Offer us full disclosure. The more useful information you give us, the easier our jobs become, and the more efficiently we can work. (And the more money you save.) Be sure and get us any information you can about our subject and anyone else we need to observe: full name, physical description, photographs, SS#, vehicle make and model, plate numbers, personal habits, workout schedule, favorite haunts, work location and hours–all that helps us find the subject and make an educated guess about where they are going next.

In summary, we’re more than happy to handle domestic cases. But in order to do the job you need us to do, it’s essential that you let us do our work. We always tell our clients, “Let your lawyer handle the legal stuff, talk to a therapist about the emotional stuff, and let us take care of the snooping.” Do this and you’ll spend less money overall and will be far more likely to find the answers your were looking for in the first place.

For additional information, please Contact Us!


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