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A Word from Scott Shaw: The Use of Private Investigators in Georgia Divorce and Child Custody Cases

Private investigators have been known to produce evidence of great value in divorce and child custody cases that I have tried in the State of Georgia. Like the nude man in the window at 3 a.m. after the wife says her friend only parked in the driveway to stay down the block. Or the blond woman coming out of the side door of a hotel in the morning with the wealthy CEO of a publicly-traded company. These were, pardon the pun, open and shut cases. But you can also do so much more with a private investigator.

At the same time, the private investigator has to act within the law to avoid any invasion of privacy lawsuits and to bring useful and usable information to the case.

Obtaining Evidence with a Private Investigator 

In the State of Georgia, if you properly use a private investigator to surveil to discover relevant information in a divorce or child custody case, both parties largely waive their rights to privacy as it relates to the best interests of the child, adultery, or hidden assets. All these things are actionable, and therefore, not an unlawful invasion of someone’s privacy to be discovered by legal means. A threat of invasion of privacy is usually, if surveillance is done correctly, just that: a threat not an actuality.

The things a private investigator can offer can be valuable to a case including: 

  • Track another person using a GPS device
  • Follow and surveil someone
  • Meet and speak with someone, even with a covert alias, in public and on social media
  • Locate the other party, business entities, or witnesses
  • If appointed as a process server, serve the other party
  • Serve as a witness
  • Conduct asset searches
  • Conduct record searches, real property records, UCC, Secretary of State filings, etc
  • Conduct background searches of parties and third parties, including criminal background searches
  • Conduct counter-surveillance to fight off unlawful searches by the other party, and document these things

The Usefulness of Private Investigation

In a recent case we documented a party who stayed overnight at the house of a friend half of the nights she was expected to be at home with the children. A background search of the friend turned up a Federal drug conviction and time served, as well as a second arrest within the past three years. Other background checks of people she associated with showed all of them with similar drug arrests and records. She had known drug-related issues as well. So why was she associating with so many drug users? Why was she leaving her children home without her supervision?  Very valuable information. 

The PI used GPS tracking. These devices are legal if the device is placed on the car in a public place and on the outside of the car. They also conducted background research. This is why we encourage the use of an experienced PI in this case. 

In another recent case of a possible abduction of a child by a parent, PI uncovered a heroin arrest in an outlying county in Georgia. The mother in the case was a known friend to the person arrested. Through this information, we were able to track down and find the mother who was staying in the home where the heroin arrest was made. The Private Investigator, who was also appointed for service of process, was able to serve the mother and we obtained an emergency court order for custody of the child, which was enforced by the police. This was possible because we partnered with a qualified and experienced private investigator. 

Not all cases will be as fruitful, and sometimes you swing and miss, but working with a private investigator to surveil, conduct asset searches, or utilize a GPS device can be extremely valuable to your case.

It also can be very valuable for use in countersurveillance as your spouse or other parties may have you under surveillance. Maybe they placed a GPS on your car, put a key reader on your computer, or set microphones in your home. Many of these things may be done illegally. A good private investigator can conduct countersurveillance to track these devices down, document them for prosecution if necessary, and possibly put a stop to them. 

Legal Avenues for Collecting Evidence with Private Investigators

Some methods of surveillance are always unlawful and need to be avoided by everyone. However, a good private investigator working with an attorney will know the difference. Georgia allows reasonable invasions of privacy and even goes as far as to waive the right of privacy in divorce and child custody cases. This includes cases where the best interest of the child, or other issues such as adultery or locating assets, have been made an issue in the lawsuit. This is true as long as the surveillance is otherwise conducted legally. Georgia has a policy of allowing parties in a suit to thoroughly investigate and prosecute their legal cases.

As such, an experienced private investigator can be invaluable in the proper cases in the State of Georgia, particularly in divorce and child custody cases.We are Georgia divorce and child custody attorneys. This is all we have done since 1995. We can help. If you need help or have any questions, we would be happy to speak with you via email, text, or phone. 

Scott Shaw

Shaw Law Firm, PC

(770) 594-8309 (phone or text)

[email protected]