November 28, 2021

By Marc A. Garza, P.I.


              Scenario 1: You are going through a difficult child custody battle that involves a minor child. You receive information that the father of your child is consuming alcohol at a bar, then he leaves to pick-up the child for court ordered child visitation.

              Scenario #2: Your 10 year-old daughter tells you that when she visits her mother every other weekend, the mother goes out and and leaves her unattended at night. The mother usually comes home in the early morning hours drunk and with different men.

              Scenario #3: Your ex-wife has a new live-in boyfriend in her home. Your children tell you the new boyfriend is smoking out of a glass pipe and drinks a lot of alcohol. Your children also tell you that he always yells at their mother in the bedroom at night. 

             Scenario #4: You have physical custody of your 14 year-old grandson. You receive information that your grandson is doing drugs during the time he is visiting his father. His father doesn't seem to be home much and leaves him alone most of the time until he returns the child to you after his visitation.


What do you do?

            Unfortunately, these are actual situations of people who have called my office to inquire about my investigative services.  In all of these cases, I recommended them to consult with an attorney to obtain legal advice concerning their case. In many instances, an attorney will recommend hiring a Licensed Private Investigator ("PI") to assist and corroborate any information you have as to the allegations of misconduct during the time the minor child is visiting a non-custodial parent. This would be considered evidence in the discovery process of a legal case. I usually work closely with my client's legal counsel to assure that the evidence that I acquire will benefit the client's family law case. 

             Evidence gathered by a private investigator is legal and usually admissible in court as long it has been gathered legally based on federal and state laws. In addition, a licensed PI can testify under oath regarding their investigation and findings.

But what information can a PI gather to support your case? 

            In the above scenarios, a PI can follow and/or conduct surveillance to obtain evidence which may include reports and video evidence to support the allegations of child endangerment or neglect in court. This would be considered evidence in a legal case once it has been submittetd to the court. Most cases will require a pattern of behavior over a period of time to solidify a case of child endangerment. Observing a parent leaving a child unattended one time will probably not be of benefit, however seeing the parent leaving a child unattended multiple times would be a significant finding in an investigation. 

What will this type of investigation cost? 

             Most PI's in California charge between $95-$150 per hour. The hourly rate will include expenses such as mileage, travel time, database research, surveillance and other investigative services. The hourly rate is deducted from a "Retainer" or deposit as work is completed on a case. Realistically,

50 hours is the average time it takes to conduct an adequate family law investigation over a 30-90 day period.  

           These situations can be gut-wrenching for a parent when they receive information of neglect and possible misconduct of the non-custodial parent during visitation times with their children. Using a qualified PI will assist in obtaining evidence to confirm suspicions in these cases, may lead to a positive outcome for the client in court.