Child custody cases are high-stakes for all involved. Both parties want to ensure that a court ruling is in the best interest of the children, and that every possibility is considered when determining who gets custody, and on what terms.
Hiring a private investigator can provide the evidence needed to sway a case in a particular direction.
What do the courts look for in a child custody case?
When a custody case is filed, parents are either seeking a particular class of custody – or to prove that a certain type of custody won’t be beneficial for a child.
There are several types of custody: legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, joint custody and joint physical custody. Each has different limitations and arrangements regarding the input of either parent on a child’s life.
When making a decision around custody, the courts consider the best interests of the child. Essentially, they take into account different factors to determine what situations will provide the best outcomes for the child’s wellbeing, health, growth, support and development.
These factors include parenting skills, lifestyle, home environment, financial standing and emotional and physical health – plus many more.
Private investigators can provide evidence in support of or against these factors, helping to deliver a custody outcome that represents a child’s best interests.
Here are some of the ways a private investigator can gather this evidence – and help with your child custody case.
Private investigators use background checks to determine the fitness of a parent and the appropriateness of awarding custody. Background checks can highlight factors that may be associated with neglect, abuse or simply providing a poor environment for a child to grow up in. In addition to providing checks on parents, private investigators may run a check on others involved in a child’s life, including new partners, or care providers such as babysitters, nannies or family members.
Asset checks, on the other hand, are used by private investigators to ensure that claims relating to alimony and custody are supported. Very often actual income is underreported, with individuals reporting unemployment or underemployment in order to pay less child support. Via surveillance and record checking, a private investigator can evaluate actual income – including “under the table” income from jobs such as construction, landscaping or working in the family business.
Surveillance may be commonly associated with infidelity cases, but it’s also commonly used in child custody cases. Private investigators can monitor a parent to determine whether they’re meeting the terms of their custody and visitation agreements. They might also gather evidence around questionable or illegal activity, such as drinking or substance use, and as proof of good or poor parenting. Surveillance is also used to corroborate earned versus declared income, as well as co-habitation arrangements that may affect alimony or custody arrangements.
Fit parenting and child safety are at the heart of many child custody claims. A private investigator can trail a vehicle to determine whether a party has been driving under the influence, has a habit of driving recklessly, or keeps hours not conducive to good parenting. With written permission from the owner of the vehicle, a private investigator can also install a tracking device that can be used to provide evidence for the court.
Private investigators often interview key figures in a child’s life, including teachers, neighbors, psychologists and school friends’ parents. These witness interviews can help round out parents’ accounts and substantiate or invalidate their statements. They can also be used to provide character information about the parents, provide information about parenting habits, and to gain insight into the health and wellbeing of the children involved.
Provision of evidence
In addition to photographic evidence from surveillance, private investigators can also provide information sourced from digital forensics. This includes text messages, phone records, voicemails, emails, social media posts and more. Such evidence can be invaluable in making or breaking a case, as it can be very difficult to invalidate.
Whether you’re a family lawyer or a parent involved in a child custody case, a quality private investigator can help get the evidence needed to ensure that the court makes a custody decision in the best interest of a child. Having a private investigator on your side can help you make a case regarding the fitness of a parent – or to disprove allegations made against you.