Advice to PI Clients: Don’t Sabotage Your
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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