Private investigators are almost commonplace in popular culture. If one film or TV character suspects their spouse is up to no good, they call a PI. This invariably results in photographic evidence of their partner’s indiscretion, usually infidelity.
But surely this isn’t the case in the real world, right? Actually, using a private investigator is not all that uncommon, especially if one spouse suspects adultery on the part of their partner.
The issue of private investigators was brought to my attention recently by a Daily Telegraph headline. The newspaper reported the case of a man who had allegedly been stalking his ex-wife. She had accused him of hiring two private investigators to follow and photograph her and her new partner. Not only that, he also placed GPS tracking devices on the new couple’s cars.
In a written statement to the court, the wife claimed her former husband’s actions had left her feeling “paranoid, low and depressed”. She became so concerned about being watched that she put up curtains in her house as an addition to the blinds that were already in place.
The ordeal had “been awful for the whole family” and had changed her as a person, she insisted, adding that she had previously been “a confident person and this has been taken away” from her by her husband’s behaviour.
So a very unpleasant situation all over.
But what if I want proof of adultery so I can get a divorce?
Put simply: it’s not necessary.
While the impulse is understandable, hiring a private investigator to gather proof of your spouse’s betrayal is not a practical solution. You run the risk – as the man in the Telegraph story did – of falling foul of the law and facing criminal charges of harassment because he went much too far.
Nobody needs to go to these lengths in order to bring their marriage to an end. I have had many clients who were aggravated by their spouses’ repeated denials of any wrongdoing in the face of mounting suspicion. So if you are having the affair and repeatedly telling your spouse he or she is paranoid, it’s cruel and a Judge won’t be in your side when it all comes out. It’s never a good idea to lie.
True, once your spouse learns of the affair the marriage might then be over quickly, but allowing a spouse to suffer day-in day-out while you have your illicit pleasure is plain wrong and a coward’s way out. The worry that your husband or wife is having an affair can have such a serious psychological impact on someone and it can qualify as your ‘unreasonable behaviour’ – one of the five ways to demonstrate the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage – if it turns out to be true.
But things can also turn out worse. The impact of not knowing and subsequent illness (which I’ve certainly come across several times in my professional career) might even affect the level of financial settlement as one of the factors that are so serious a court cannot ignore. This can lead to an increased financial settlement when all is said and done.
But what if you’re in a position of needing to know?
You know something is happening but your spouse just keeps denying it. Proof of adultery is not necessary if divorce is the aim, but some people are understandably still desperate to know the whole truth. That is where a private investigator can come in handy. A PI will know how far to go and not take steps that constitute illegal activity such as tapping a phone or placing trackers on a car. A PI won’t indulge in harassment.
However, I would strongly urge anyone who is thinking of hiring a private investigator to seek legal advice first to decide if it’s necessary at all. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, do not take steps on your own. Use your self-control. Don’t lose it. Harassing someone, making a show of yourself and ending up in court is not the appropriate way to go and, in the end, you want the Judge firmly on your side, not against you.