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Using a Private Investigator in a Texas Divorce

Posted on in Complex Divorce

 

Travis County divorce lawyerDivorce is messy. Divorces that involve complex child custody issues, a high-net-worth marital estate, hidden assets, or other significant issues are even messier. In many of these types of cases, a divorce attorney may recommend hiring a private investigator to uncover evidence to help a spouse prevail in the final divorce settlement.

However, it is important that the private investigator you hire is a skilled professional who can produce results and is also aware of the legal limits that they are supposed to be following. Conversely, if your spouse has hired a private investigator to try to dig up evidence against you, it is also important to let your attorney know if that investigator is breaching those limits.  

What Are Private Investigators Allowed to Do?

An investigator has many methods and tools to work with. The following are some of the most common methods that a private investigator is allowed to engage in:

  • Interviews – One of the goals of a private investigator is to collect as much information about the subject’s activities, habits, schedule, and other behaviors and character traits. The investigator is allowed to contact anyone the subject may be in contact with in order to gather this information. This includes family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else the subject may interact with.

  • Surveillance – Investigators frequently conduct surveillance on the people they have been hired to investigate. It is often one of the best ways to gather evidence. An investigator is allowed to follow the subject, as well as take photos and videos of the locations the subject visits and the people they interact with.

  • Eavesdrop – As an investigator is following the subject, they may have the opportunity to be close enough to hear conversations the subject may be having, such as sitting at a table at a restaurant or having a phone conversation in a public place.

  • Search trash – Generally, trash that a person discards is considered abandoned property. This means that a private investigator can search through a subject’s trash, as long as the trash is located in a public area, such as on the curb in front of the subject’s home or business or in a dumpster in a public parking lot or alley.

What Are Private Investigators Not Allowed to Do?

While there are many things an investigator is allowed to do, they must adhere to the strict parameters set forth under the law and regulations they are required to follow in accordance with their private investigator’s license. They are not allowed to:

  • Trespass – Although an investigator can conduct surveillance on a subject, they are not allowed to trespass onto private property to do so. If a business or property owner tells the investigator to leave the premises, they must comply.

  • Subject impersonation – There are often certain records that could be helpful to the investigation; however, those records may be confidential and available only to the subject. Examples of these types of records include phone records, financial statements, and medical records. An investigator cannot pretend they are the subject in order to gain access to those records.

  • Police officer impersonation – A private investigator also cannot pretend to be a police officer or other public official in order to trick a witness into speaking to them or turning over evidence.

  • Searching people’s mail – Going through or tampering with another person’s mail is a federal offense and the private investigator could face up to five years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine if convicted of a crime.

Contact a Travis County Divorce Attorney

If you are going through a complex divorce, you need a skilled Austin, TX high-asset divorce attorney advocating for you. Call Powers and Kerr, PLLC today at 512-610-6199 to schedule a confidential consultation.

Source:

https://www.dps.texas.gov/rsd/psb/docs/statutesRules.pdf

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