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Child Custody: Important aspect of Private Investigations

Date : 05/02/2007

Child custody is an extremely important aspect of private investigations

Many people reach out for help when they suspect their custody agreements are being violated by the other custodial parent, from the environment the children are in to the basic treatment of the children.

The stories are horrific, sad, unbelievable, and often criminal. But the frustration is overwhelming because of the lack of proof. How do you prove the stories children are telling? These cases are often solved by professional private investigators.

Many people aren’t aware of all that can be done to protect children in custody cases, whether from ignorance of the laws or not receiving the help they are entitled to by authorities charged with protecting children.

Let’s say two parents are divorced and one parent has been awarded physical custody while the other has frequent visitation. The children are coming back from visitation with stories that raise concern. They tell stories of people of the opposite sex staying the night, lots of people coming in and out, loud parties, possible drug use inside the home, or the parent constantly screaming at them. The kids come home filthy and hungry – sometimes in the same clothes you dropped them off in two nights prior!

You ask the authorities about how to solve this problem and you are told, “Whatever goes on inside the home is off-limits, protected by privacy laws. You’re out of luck.” True or false? In short, privacy laws must be respected, as an investigation that violates state or federal law is pointless (the evidence won’t be usable) and could result in some pretty serious crimes charges against you, the client. However, let’s explore some of the other areas where proof can be found – legally.

What can be done to get child custody?

  • Trash dives are an important part of any custody investigation. We get to find out what is going on inside the residence by the stuff coming out in the trash. And trash, once placed outside the property line, is public property! Would you benefit from private investigators’ video documenting the contents of the trash, pulling out ten, twenty, a hundred empty cans or bottles of alcohol? Would it help to find the burned tin foil or wire associated with drug use – maybe even needles? How much more would it benefit your children if this investigation is done the night prior, or the nights during the children’s stay? What if your child is asthmatic and you have a court order stating the other parent is not to smoke in the structure, vehicle, or anywhere around the child, and a private investigator pulls cigarette butts, ash, and empty cigarette packs out of the trash – the very night your child is inside asleep?

  • Driving behavior and proper child restraint is becoming more important in court hearings. If an investigator was asked to find out if the other parent has a “significant other,” and during the course of that surveillance the parent is captured on date- and time-stamped video traveling more than 20 mph over the posted speed limit, with your children bouncing around in the back seat, unrestrained, would that have an impact in court? It absolutely would!

  • Body language is the most underused but potentially the most effective tool for any child custody investigation. There are specially trained child specialists who can watch surveillance video taken by a private investigator and identify if a problem exists behind the closed doors of the home, simply by reading the body language between the child and adult. This is huge! Imagine your child’s visitation being captured on video, resulting in an expert opinion rendered in court, supported by your child’s obvious fear and stories of mental, emotional, or even physical abuse. The court is very likely to put your custody fears to rest.

  • Children left unattended for periods of time, or left with other people when they are supposed to be visiting their parent, are not uncommon findings in custody investigations. A recent investigation intended to discover if the father was smoking around a two year-old child found the child playing completely unsupervised in the front yard while her father was in the back yard at a barbeque. Worse still, the yard ran directly up to a major two-lane highway where vehicles were passing at speeds of 65 mph, with no fence or barrier separating the yard from the asphalt of the highway! This is only one of hundreds of examples where child custody investigations yield much more damning evidence than the other parent was imagining. It happens all the time.

  • Finally, for those who suspect possible drug use by the other parent, technology has proven invaluable. With access to the proper resources, private investigators can be provided with the children’s hair samples for hair-follicle testing. These tests have proven drug use around the children, from the smoking of marijuana to the ingestion of more dangerous narcotics such as cocaine and meth amphetamines (accidentally swallowed by placing the hands in the mouth from a dirty coffee table, or absorbed trans-dermally into the skin).

Why hire a private investigator?

The simple fact is this: investigations by private investigators with the proper knowledge, experience, and resources can be extremely effective in custody cases, documenting activities you might or might not have considered. The goal is to find out what is going on, establish those facts legally, and protect your most valuable treasure: your children.

Article written by:

James Stevenson, PI
Senior Case Analyst
International Counterintelligence Services, Inc.
May 2007

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