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Do You Need a Private Investigator?
You should consider hiring a Private Investigator to gather evidence for you if:
Many people think PI’s are just for adultery cases, but nothing could be further from the truth. An experienced, well-equipped investigator can gather proof of alcohol or drug abuse, exposure of children to unhealthy environments, activities or people, and even lack of proper supervision when visiting the other parent. Surveillance can often reveal real work hours, after work activities, adultery, frequent drinking, drug use, or that your spouse is having their paramour spend time with your children.
Family and friends can provide testimony or affidavits regarding some of these same issues, but they may be seen as biased. A professional, experienced, reputable investigator will most likely have testified before the very court you will be heard in, and will be familiar to both the opposing attorney and the judge. While you will personally testify to many of the issues in your case, most attorneys will advise against you conducting your own investigations. Certainly gathering all your financial and other information from the home is advisable, but you should NEVER follow your spouse or have anyone else do so unless they are licensed, bonded, insured, experienced professional investigators. In South Carolina and many other states, surveillance like this can be considered a crime for which only certain licensed professionals are exempt from prosecution. In addition, only a trained, experienced professional is likely to be able to conduct successful surveillance.
Another important area that a good investigator can help you in is discovering hidden assets. It is fairly common for spouses to move money and property when a separation seems likely. In addition, many people find that their spouse has been hiding bank accounts, property and other assets from them for a very long time. You have no way of knowing without having someone with experience look into this issue. The higher your spouse’s income, the more likely it is that they have had the opportunity to separate assets out and keep them hidden, particularly if you have kept separate checking or other accounts for some time. Consult with an attorney or qualified financial professional to see if this type of investigation may be appropriate in your situation.
Do you suspect that your spouse lied to you about his or her past? Other divorces, criminal convictions, lawsuits, debts, business interests and other ghosts from the past can be valuable information in a divorce. Even if you don’t need the information for court, many people find that knowing more about their spouse’s past helps them get through the breakup more easily.
While the services of a qualified private investigator will cost money, keep in mind that in South Carolina and many other states if the evidence the investigator gathers is important in the case, you can ask the judge to make your spouse pay part or all of the cost. This is not available in all states, so please consult an attorney or your state’s law/rules to see how this may apply to your situation.
If you need to prove adultery, prove alcohol or drug use/abuse, keep custody or limit your spouse’s visitation rights for the good of your children, you should seriously consider hiring a private investigator.
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South Carolina requires that either the plaintiff or the defendant must have been a resident for at least one year. If both spouses are residents, however, the plaintiff is only required to have been residing in the state for three months.
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Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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