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Child Custody Surveillance—The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

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Entering the world of child custody cases can often leave people feeling a little emotional. The spectrum of these types of cases is wide as no two cases are ever the same—but the bottom line is clear. While two parents no longer wish to remain married, the safety and well-being of their children is a top priority.

Child custody agreements exist to help in situations where a marriage dissolves or a couple decides to go their separate ways. Child custody defines the terms and conditions that apply to each parent. The agreement outlines who the child will stay with and when, child support payments, and any other relevant information.

Child Custody Surveillance: Hire a Private Investigator

The best advice we can give you when trying to sort out child custody is to hire a private investigator. A private investigator is a licensed professional, trained in modern surveillance techniques and other methods of investigation.

When it comes to child custody cases, a private investigator is often called in to conduct surveillance on one or both of the parents. The information gathered during surveillance can help the courts decide which parent should receive custody of the child or children. In some cases, it also helps to determine other elements of the child custody agreement like,

  • How long the parent can see the child
  • If the parent needs supervision during the visit
  • Where the parent can take the child
  • How often the parent can see the child

If you believe that your ex is incapable, or unfit to watch over your children, or that the new person in your ex’s life might be harming your children in any way, a private investigator will uncover the truth including:

The Good

The majority of child custody cases are simple. The parents simply agree that they can no longer remain happily married and come up with an agreement that benefits all parties. While some of these cases go to court, most are settled separately and amicably.

Now, in these types of cases, you might not need or want to hire a private investigator. If you have no reason to suspect that your children are in danger, or that your ex is following your agreement to a ‘T,’ there’s no reason to worry. If however, you believe your ex is starting to behave oddly, or your children mention something worrisome, the situation has changed. Trust your gut. Remember: in the event of a divorce or separation, the wellbeing of your children should be your primary concern.

The Bad

These types of child custody cases tend to occur when one of the parents suspects the other isn’t providing proper care and support. This can include,

  • Leaving the children with a babysitter to go to a party.
  • Cancelling agreed upon time with the children.
  • Leaving the children alone for hours at a time.
  • Ignoring elements of the child custody agreement.
  • Failing to make child support payments.

In these cases, hiring a private investigator is a good idea. If you haven’t yet gone to court (and talking things through with your ex doesn’t seem to be working), a private investigator can give you the information you need to shift things in your favor.

The Ugly

When child custody cases go bad, things can really turn ugly. Some of the worst-case scenarios include every parent’s nightmare: abduction and child abuse.

Abduction cases are rare, but they do happen. It occurs when one of the parents break the rules of their child custody agreement and disappears with the child. Some go on the run by catching a flight, while others try and drive across borders. In either situation, this is considered kidnapping, despite the fact that the child knows and feels comfortable with the parent.

The majority of child abuse cases occur at the hands of someone the child knows. If you suspect that your ex is abusing your child, you must call social services, right away. If no proof is uncovered, and you still suspect something is wrong, hiring a private investigator will help to uncover the truth. It will also provide the evidence you need to revoke any custody your ex once had with your child.

In these ugly and horrible situations, one parent has broken the law. They’ve also completely broken any type or form child custody agreement.

Private Investigator Surveillance Techniques: Child Custody Cases

Private investigators or private investigation company’s are often hired to help resolve child custody cases. Quite often, lawyers will hire a licensed private investigator to look into a lead or to dig a bit deeper to help build the case. In most cases though, the parent will hire a private investigator to watch their ex and how they behave around their child.

The primary technique a private investigator uses in a child custody case is surveillance. Surveillance requires a private investigator to watch or/and follow the parent to observe how they go about their day with the child. They achieve this using several tools including,

Background Check

A quick background check will often reveal a lot about a person. It might even reveal things that one parent did not know about the other. Starting with a background check allows a private investigator to learn more about the individual and gather any potential evidence.

Private investigators use a variety of sources for a background check, some simple, while others are more complex. Simple sources include,

  • Google search for a person’s name
  • Social media

Other, more complex searches include,

  • Police records
  • Other databases


When it comes to surveillance, private investigators spend a lot of time waiting for the person to do something. This is why they will often pick a spot somewhere close to the person’s house to park and wait in a car. It is important that the spot is well hidden or unobtrusive, as to not attract attention. It’s also important that the private investigator also use a vehicle that blends into the surroundings.

Once parked, the private investigator will wait, monitoring the person’s house until they leave. This is particularly important for child custody cases. If the parent is supposed to be watching the children and leaves without them, the private investigator can capture the evidence.

Camera Equipment

Capturing the evidence is the most important job of any private investigator. Many private investigators use high-quality cameras, which is key in capturing clear images. Clear images of the evidence are important as to leave no questions about what the private investigator found.

In situations where the private investigator is searching for a missing child in a child custody case, they will want access to any video surveillance that might exist. The parent may have stopped off at a restaurant with a child, or even a convenience store.  Other details of the video can help the private investigator uncover where the parent might be headed.

One thing a private investigator does need to look out for is any law they must work within in different states and provinces. For example, in most North American locations, it’s illegal to set up video surveillance in someone’s home without their knowledge or consent.

For more information on surveillance and/or child custody, contact us today!

About the Author

Whitney Joy Smith

Whitney Joy Smith is a prominent figure in the field of private investigation and security, serving as the founder and CEO of The Smith Investigation Agency Inc., Smith Security Inc., and Training Centre Canada, as well as a sitting politician.

With a remarkable journey that began in the early 2000s, Whitney's professional background as a private investigator is underscored by her unwavering dedication to the role. Born in Canada and having spent her early years between Canada and the United States, Whitney possesses a unique perspective shaped by her experiences in both countries. This background equips her with an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of private investigative laws, regulations, and operational standards in North America.

Throughout her career, Whitney has garnered numerous industry awards and accolades. She takes great pride in working closely with her continually expanding agency, striving to elevate industry standards, maintain compliance, and effectively meet the diverse investigative needs of clients.

Whitney actively engages in various membership, committee, board and support roles, demonstrating her commitment to the industry and professional community. She is affiliated with all local chambers, associations and more.

Whitney's wealth of experience is not limited to her professional achievements; her thought-provoking articles have been featured in publications ranging from Readers Digest, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, and Mens Health to Business News Daily. She constantly seeks to redefine standards and push the boundaries of excellence within the private investigative and security fields.

To discover more about Whitney Joy Smith and the dedicated team at The Smith Investigation Agency Inc., visit our website to learn more.

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