What You Need To Know About Hiring a Private Investigator in a Family Law Matter | Guest Post from Edwin L. Clark

Edwin L. Clark, Investigator
Edwin L. Clark, Investigator

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Client Reviews

  • “Not knowing the first thing about hiring an attorney for an unexpected personal situation, a friend referred me to William Conners. From the very beginning, I felt very confident he would make sure that all negotiations and decisions made would benefit me and my daughter. Will has been very professional and caring and I cannot thank him enough.”

    A. S.
  • ” William Conners represented me in my divorce which was complicated by the fact that my ex-wife and I owned several successful businesses together. I have used many attorneys in the past. Will’s performance was exemplary and many, many steps ahead in legal skill, strategy, preparation and sophistication. My goals were more than met (and then some) and I ended up with the businesses! I can wholeheartedly recommend him.”

    D.R.
  • “I was mired in a contentious divorce that had spiraled out of control through nightmarish claims that were chilling in their seriousness. While struggling to deal with the emotional turmoil of a marriage that was over, I was facing bleak options that realistically included losing my job, my children, and even my freedom. Through Mr. Conners’ skilled counsel I came through the nightmare with my family and my future intact – defeating the false charges, successfully resolving the marital dispute, and keeping custody of my children. I have no doubt that without his expert handling of my case things would have turned out very differently indeed, and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you for giving me back my future!”

    D. G.
  • “A few of the initial things that impressed me about Will and his staff were their accessibility, promptness in responding to my requests and thorough explanation of the answers to my questions. I appreciated Will’s approach to giving me options and recommendations, and then he let me have a say in the decisions regarding the direction of my divorce case. Throughout the process, Will’s priorities remained focused on preparing my case to win in court if a fair settlement could not be reached and minimizing financial consequences without expensive legal posturing. He was my expert legal counsel and a part-time coach that knew how to motivate me and help me get through it. Will and his staff genuinely cared about the emotional and financial toll that the divorce was exacting on me. Without hesitation, I recommend William Conners for his expertise in Family Law matters and his compassion for the person he represents.”

    C.K.
  • “My divorce featured all the most difficult aspects including a vindictive spouse willing to do and say anything to destroy me and exclude my role in our children’s lives. No matter how difficult the situation though, Will Conners provided devoted and professional representation. He took the time and interest to understand my dynamic and craft a strategy that unveiled my spouses’ false vendetta, preserved the relationship between me and my children and protected my financial interests. I count myself fortunate to have had Will as my attorney and wholeheartedly recommend him.”

    P.B.
  • “I came to see William R.F. Conners for a divorce and to work out custody issues for my 5 year old son. I was very impressed with my first and subsequent visits to see Mr. Conners. I always felt that kindness was a given, my case was given the attention and professionalism it deserved, with particular emphasis on the welfare of my son and the staff was always courteous and helpful. Mr. Conners worked very hard on my case and always returned my calls in a timely manner. I highly recommend William R.F. Conners to anyone who needs a lawyer who makes you feel like your case is the most important one that he has.”

    C.O.
  • “As a commercial airplane pilot, a clean driving record is essential to my career. When I was charged by a Virginia state trooper with misdemeanor Reckless Driving by speed on radar (90 mph in a 55 mph zone), I was facing potential jail time, huge fines and a suspension of my privilege to drive. If convicted, I would have had to report the conviction to the FAA and faced potential suspension of my pilot’s license. The stakes were high and I turned to Attorney William Conners for help. Attorney Conners used his knowledge of traffic law and regulations to fight for me at trial and we won with the charge being totally DISMISSED without my even having to testify! If you need legal representation for a serious traffic charge, call Attorney Conners and experience what it really means to have someone on your side.”

    L.A.
  • “Charged with a clear “no win” 3rd Felony DUI, I was facing a dark future. I was destined to be a felon with no right to drive for 10 years and a jail sentence of 6 months to 5 years! Add my life threatening health problems and the situation could not have been worse. However, my prayers were answered and Attorney Will Conners succeeded in getting the charge greatly reduced with minimal consequences. I served less than 1 day in jail after my court hearing which I consider a miracle. I am so grateful for Will’s intelligence, loyalty and kindness. He made a profound difference in my life and I will never forget what he did to help me.”

    S.A.
  • “I am extremely pleased that I chose William R. F. Conners as my attorney for my criminal case. After interviewing several Loudoun County attorneys, I found Mr. Conner’s fee to be by far the best, his personality to be friendly, and his accessibility to be superior. Most of all, Mr. Conners went above and beyond what I expected by putting in numerous unexpected hours and doing an astounding job arguing against the prosecutor. As a result of his hard work and courtroom savvy, my charge was reduced beyond what was expected. I highly recommend William Conners for any of your legal needs.”

    C. P.
  • “After I was involved in a terrible car accident, I had no idea what to do. How do I handle the insurance questions, medical bills, lost time from work? Knowing I couldn’t, and shouldn’t, take this task on myself, I found Mr. Conners law firm thru an internet search. Shortly after completing the on line questionnaire from his website, I received a phone call from Mr. Conners. He was very polite, offered to meet and discuss my case. At the first meeting he made me feel comfortable. Will was always very prompt to answer any questions I had, both email and when I called the office; we even talked on the weekends. I had total faith that he had my best interest in making decisions and recommendations needed to resolve my case. I would recommend his services to any of my friends and family. “

    T.M.
  • “As recent immigrants to the U.S. we have been completely unprepared for dealing with the consequences of obvious negligence my wife encountered during one fateful visit to her new OB/GYN doctor. It was only due to the timely interference of more competent physicians and sheer luck we have been able to avoid permanent damage to her health. On our friends’ recommendation we asked the “Law Office of William R. F. Conners, P.C” to take up our personal injury suit, and through all the stages the firm provided us with the top-rate legal advice. In the end it was solely thanks to their persistence and professionalism that we have been able to arrive to a mutually acceptable settlement of our case. Our special kudos go to Mr. William Conners for his sharp legal acumen and personal dedication.”

    A.C. & I.C.
  • “The injuries I suffered in a car crash were severe and permanent. The extent to which Will prepared my case was extraordinary. Will Conners is the lawyer to call if you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision and suffered personal injury.”

    W.E.
  • “How do you thank someone who took a very frustrating situation and turned it into success! Even after being threatened with a “Contempt of Court” citation my ex-husband stopped support payments. I was told I could garnish his social security payments but that led to one phone call after another to government offices and no solution. I finally found Will and he told me to stop worrying that he would take care of everything. He did just that by following through and taking my ex to court. After back-and-forth coversations I received all of my past due support payments plus attorney’s fees and court costs without going before a judge. There aren’t enough thanks or praise for such a dedicated and caring attorney.”

    D.R.
  • “Will handled my family law case in the 2009-2011 time frame, and was instrumental in helping me achieve a desired result – and avoiding costly litigation. He was very familiar with law specifically applicable to my case, and was highly familiar with the opposing counsels tactics & tendencies. Will managed my case efficieintly and also helped me to do much of my own documentation (hence saving costs). I would be happy to recommend him in the area of family law. He’s a highly ethical counselor, with excellent knowledge of applicable law to divorce cases, and provided me good guidance on my case. Highly recommend.”

    J. C.
  • Nowadays, it is somewhat of a challenge to go through life without the need of an attorney. Should the need arise for a competent attorney to handle one’s legal affairs, I strongly recommend Will Conners. Will has handled a few of our family cases, including personal injury, family law and business transactions. His competency level in handling our cases was above and beyond any other attorney’s I have seen. Will has an extremely keen eye for details and always puts the client’s interest on a priority level. In a nutshell, Will is THE attorney our family turns to when any need arises for legal advice or representation. I would highly recommend Will. In my humble opinion, he is the best!”

    A. H.
  • I hired Will to represent me in a difficult divorce case. He did an absolute excellent job making sure my interests were looked after. It was a difficult time for me with an wife that had some personal issues. In the end Will made sure I did what needed to be done to protect myself but showed compassion for the woman I was divorcing without ever sacrificing my personal interests. I would employ his services again for any legal issues, which I hope there will be none, in a heartbeat!!! Rating would be 4.5 “

    K.A.
  • Attorney Will Connors helped me in filing an accident lawsuit against a drunk driver. Although it took a while for Will and his staff to reach the settlement which I desired, they were with me and my case every step of the way, keeping me fully informed and in the loop on every step of the process. They were most professional in every way, and I am one hundred percent pleased at having chosen Will to be my attorney on this issue. I would recommend Will and his firm without reservation.”

    T.P.
  •  Will has been a pleasure to work with during a difficult child custody battle. He has been almost always available, always on top of circumstances, provided very good counsel, quickly assimilated my issues without excessive dialogue and exhibited great flexibility under changing circumstances. While legal services don’t come cheap, his ability to quickly comprehend my issues probably netted a savings.”

    J.A.
  • Will Conners has been my lawyer for several years and has guided me through some difficult family law situations that occurred as a result of a divorce. His patience and ability to schedule and meet appointments and court appearances have been amazing. He was even able to formulate a plan to handle the final details of my case which is proving to be the best course of action. He has always been there for me when I needed him.”

    D.A.
  • I hired Will to represent me in an arduous divorce case knotted with a complicated financial scenario, and troublesome spousal support battle. Will and his staff’s unending commitment, and patience quickly sorted through my retired military and executive careers, disabled veteran entitlements, and the best interest of the children amidst an emotionally overbearing ex-spouse. My case rapidly spiraled from separation to divorce in under one year. His steadfast professionalism and goodness guided me through a toxic situation that protects both my finances and the children. I can’t thank Will and his staff enough.
    V.M.

Read all testimonials

Notice: The client quotations above are not to be construed to guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken by any attorney of the Law Office of William R.F. Conners, P.C. Each case result depends upon a variety of factors unique to each case and client.

This article will help  you understand the role of private investigators in family law cases.  A private investigator can be a valuable resource in helping reach a successful outcome in a legal dispute.

Q:  What is a private investigator?

A:  Private investigators are a valuable resource in many situations in which an individual’s rights may be involved in legal proceedings. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, (“DCJS”) is the regulating agency for private investigators.  VA DCJS requires that an individual complete the minimum training requirements and pass an exam prior to becoming a registered private investigator.  The range of services that a private investigator can provide is very broad.  A private investigator can investigate most anything on behalf of a client within the scope of what is legally permissible.

Q:  Who hires a private investigator?

A:  Anyone can hire a private investigator, to include law offices, businesses, insurance companies and private individuals.

Q:  What are some reasons to hire a private investigator?

A:   Private investigators are hired for a variety of matters including cases involving family law situations.  The most common type of investigations in family law include but are not limited to establishing adultery (spousal infidelity), investigating child custody and visitation issues, and related to  establishing that someone receiving spousal support is living with another in a marriage like relationship (which can lead to termination of spousal support).

Private investigators are also hired for a variety of other reasons in the arena of family law to include conducting background investigations, establishing a subject’s location, private process service, interviewing witnesses, securing court filings, asset investigations, etc.

Q:  What Should I Do Before I Hire a Private Investigator?

A:  Do your homework.  Before signing a retainer agreement with a private investigator, you should request references for the private investigator.   Additionally, ask for the investigator’s license/registration number and check with the state licensing board to see if any complaints have been lodged against him or her and the results. Importantly, speak with your attorney about the most beneficial way to utilize the investigator.

Q:  Should I hire a private investigator if I think my spouse is cheating?

A:  If you believe that your spouse is cheating, hiring a private investigator would likely benefit you.  A private investigator can determine if your suspicions are correct or provide you with peace of mind if not.  If your spouse is cheating, the private investigator may be able to obtain the evidence that you need to prove adultery which can save a lot of time and legal expense in bringing and/or defending against spousal support claims. Moreover, adultery is a basis upon which you may seek a divorce in Virginia. Such fault based claim can also be very advantageous in supporting your position in negotiation and/or litigation.

Q:  What evidence do private investigators secure to assist in establishing claims of adultery?

A:  Adultery in Virginia must be proven by “clear and convincing evidence”  which is a very high evidentiary standard. Thus, solid private investigator work product is often essential. Evidence commonly secured by private investigators include public displays of affection (PDAs) such things as holding hands, hugging and kissing and the “opportunity” to engage in intercourse and/or sodomy.  Dwellings, hotels and vehicles are the most common places where opportunity occurs.  A private investigator will attempt to obtain photos and/or video evidence of PDA and opportunity and identify eyewitnesses including any paramour.

Q:  Why do I need to prove adultery?

A: Having the proof of your spouse’s adultery can benefit you greatly in the divorce process as it pertains to custody, visitation, division of assets and debts and spousal support.

Q:  If I hire a private investigator to conduct surveillance on my spouse, will my spouse find out?

A:  A professional private investigator can normally obtain the required evidence without your spouse ever knowing that they are being investigated.  However, it is important that you take some precautions prior to contacting a private investigator.  Do not call a private investigator from a phone in which your spouse has access to the call log.  Do not email a private investigator from any email account that your spouse may have access to.  Keep your email and cell phone password protected and change the passwords frequently.  Do not pay the private investigator from any account that your spouse has access to.

Q:  How long does it take to investigate my spouse for adultery?

A:  Every case is different, many adultery cases are completed in less than two months and some in a matter of weeks.

Q:  How can I help the private investigator in the investigation of my spouse?

A:  Try not to change your behavior.  Continue about your relationship as you have.    Do not ask your spouse too many questions about their activity.  Keep the investigator informed of any information that you obtain about your spouse’s activities, which could assist with the investigation such as; schedule changes, plans for overnight trips by you or your spouse, vacations etc.

Q:  Can I legally place a tracking device on my spouse’s vehicle?

A:  No.  In the state of VA, only a private investigator may place a tracking device on someone’s vehicle and only when the owner of the vehicle grants permission. However, if the vehicle your spouse drives is jointly titled, the private investigator, upon your permission, may place a tracker on the vehicle.

Q:  I think my spouse is hiding money from me.  Can a private investigator find secret bank accounts?

A:  Yes, private investigators can run statewide or nationwide searches for bank and brokerage accounts that your spouse may be concealing from you.

Q:  Can a private investigator retrieve the text messages from my spouse’s cell phone?

A:  No.  A private investigator cannot legally do this.

Q:  How can a private investigator help with my child custody case?

A:   In child custody cases, courts are to make decisions in the best interests of the children. In order to provide the court with a clearer picture of what is really going on in the lives of your children, professional and discreet surveillance by a private investigator can help provide evidence for the court to make a sound decision.

Q:  What is  the purpose of a cohabitation investigation?

A:  Many times, by law or by agreement in a divorce settlement, one party agrees to pay the other party a specified amount of spousal support subject to certain terms.  Spousal support is normally contingent on various restrictions that are placed on the receiving party.  A common restriction is that the receiving party may not cohabitate with someone during the period of these payments.  The purpose of a cohabitation investigation is to gather evidence that establishes the receiving party is in fact cohabitating which may be grounds upon which to terminate and/or modify spousal support. 

Q:  How is cohabitation defined?

A:  Cohabitation is a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationship that is like a marriage.

Q:  How can a private investigator assist me if my ex-spouse is cohabitating with someone?

A:  If you believe that your ex-spouse is cohabitating with someone, a private investigator can gather the evidence to prove it. Cohabitation may be grounds upon which to terminate and/or modify spousal support.

Q:  What evidence is required to prove cohabitation?

A:  Evidence of cohabitation is gathered to establish that same has been occurring for over an extended period of time, normally one year or more.  The private investigator will gather photographic and/or video evidence of the cohabitants entering and exiting the dwelling and consistently staying overnight together.  The private investigator will also attempt to gather evidence that indicates that there is a romantic relationship between the cohabitants.  Other evidence may include photographs of the cohabitants sharing in household chores such as mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, retrieving the mail etc.  The private investigator may also attempt to gather evidence of shared finances between the parties.

Q:  What types of equipment do private investigators use?

A:  Private investigators use a variety of equipment such as specialized cameras and tracking devices.  The particular situation and applicable law dictate the type of camera which may be utilized.  Covert cameras are typically used for up close surveillance.  Some situations require a camera/video camera equipped with a quality zoom.  During nighttime investigations, night vision cameras are preferred.  Private investigators can also utilize various tracking devices and apps to monitor and record the location of the subject.

Q:  Can a private investigator enter onto someone’s property without the property owner’s permission?

A:  No.  A private investigator must obey all laws.

Q:  Can a private investigator determine who is calling or emailing me?

A:  Private investigators can obtain information from databases that are not accessible to the public and in many cases are able to determine the owner of a phone number and/or email.

Q:  Can a private investigator help me locate someone?

A:  Yes. A private investigator may help locate an individual.  Sometimes people will try to avoid being located which can make it more difficult. The investigator can help identify a current address and may conduct a background check to find old addresses & phone numbers that can assist with the investigation.  Social media sites may also be utilized by the private investigator to assist in locating someone.

Q:  Do private investigators carry firearms?

A:  Private investigators may carry a firearm but must do so in accordance with the state and local laws.  In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a private investigator must be certified with the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and must complete annual training and range qualification in addition to maintaining a concealed carry permit.

Q:  How much does it cost to hire a private investigator?

A:  The cost for private investigator services can vary dramatically depending on the type of investigation.  Most private investigators charge an hourly fee.  Some services may be available for a flat fee, such as a background or record check.  Most private investigators will ask for a retainer to be paid before they agree to take the case and begin work.  You may also be charged for out-of-pocket expenses that private investigators expend to complete the service, such as mileage, highway tolls, parking, airline charges, hotels and copying charges.

About the guest contributor: Edwin L. Clark is the Compliance Agent, Chief Investigator and Founder of Covert Surveillance & Investigations, LLC (CSI).  Mr. Clark is a highly skilled professional investigator with over 12 years of experience.  Mr. Clark has owned and operated CSI for the past 10 years and has assisted many individuals in obtaining the evidence necessary for them to build a strong case.  Prior to this, Mr. Clark served for 31 years in the Federal Government, working in highly classified environments.  His service included time with the Defense Contract Audit Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and most recently the Department of Homeland Security.  To learn more about CSI and the services available, please visit:

www.csi-pi.com or call 540-454-1696.

The Law Office of William R.F. Conners, P.C. in Leesburg, Virginia serves the cities of Chantilly, Fairfax, Herndon, Leesburg, Middleburg, Reston, and Vienna, Sterling, Ashburn and Purcellville, as well as all communities in Loudoun County and Fairfax County, Virginia.