"SPOUSAL SUPPORT/CO-HABITATION INVESTIGATIONS"
January 21, 2022
By Marc A. Garza, P.I.
A very common family law case we investigate is when a client requires evidence to support their court filing to modify or terminate spousal support (Alimony). In many cases, our clients are paying thousands in monthly spousal support and later obtain information that their ex-spouse's financial position has improved or they are now living with another person in a "non-marital" romantic relationship, also referred to as "Cohabitation".
Under California Family Code 4323 (a)(1), a person may modify their spousal support order if the court determines that circumstances have changed.
During our intake process for new cases, usually the clients are already working with an attorney and need actionable evidence to support their case. If they have no legal counsel, I recommend that they first speak with an attorney before proceeding with an investigation to make sure they fully understand their legal rights. We usually work closely with their attorney to assure that all the evidence we obtain will benefit the client.
But, what constitutes "actionable evidence."
For these types of cases, we usually conduct surveillance on the ex-spouse. We can usually determine pretty quickly if two people are living together and are in a romantc relationship because of their various behavior patterns. Observing a couple in a home, once or twice in a week, won't prove much; however, observing a couple in the home over a few weeks or months and observing them interacting with each other romantically would solidify behavior patterns that prove cohabitation in court.
Once the investigation is over, all surveillance video and photographic evidence, including surveillance reports are turned over to the client's attorney for review. In most of these cases, the private investigator ("PI") will have to testify in court about the evidence that was collected for the case.
As mentioned above, the PI will usually have to testify in court, so a critical first step is to make sure the PI you hire is licensed in your state. This can easily be done by checking the state website that governs PI's. In California, if a person is not a licensed private investigator while conducting surveillance or other investigative tasks, then the evidence collected by the investigator would probably not be admissible in court because it was collected illegally.
Once a PI is hired in these cases, the probability is good that any evidence of cohabitation will help the client and their attorney in modifying or terminating a spousal support order.