Rob Artus Featured In Single Process Video Series

As promised, my appearance on the much anticipated Single Process video series is featured below. This is a terrific project and I am honored to have been one of the interviewees.

Single Process is an insightful collection of interviews conducted by Barb Hazelton and Jo Briggs with top experts in every area of divorce.  In this first interview, I discuss the finer points of what to consider when hiring a private investigator, including communicating through your attorney, what evidence is admissible in court, and identifying assets. Barb and Jo had some excellent questions regarding the process and I also share a few interesting stories from my experience.

In my second interview with the ladies, we delve into the topic of infidelity, obviously a major point of interest when discussing divorce. We talk about what it means to be in a “No Fault” state, such as Connecticut, how social media has revolutionized investigating infidelity, and the art of surveillance. Again, I offer up some cases from my experience that had Barb and Jo on the edge of their seat.

I can’t thank Barb Hazelton, Jo Briggs and the entire Single Process team enough for inviting me to be a part of their video series and we hope you find these interviews entertaining and informative.

Rob Artus Featured in Divorce Podcast

Yesterday we began filming on a new project by SingleProcess regarding divorce in Connecticut. This is an exciting new podcast project being put together by Barb Hazelton and Jo Briggs, who are amazing, which will focus on all aspects of divorce. I provided the PI piece and judging by the top-level attorneys and other experts they are interviewing, it will be a very worthwhile project. So, watch this space and I’ll let you know when the podcast is ready!

Rob Artus Quoted in Connecticut Law Tribune Article

This week I was quoted in an article published in the Connecticut Law Tribune entitled “Digital Evidence Outmodes Physical Evidence in Divorce Cases”. One is never usually thrilled with the quotes selected (of all the great material provided!), but as they say, any publicity is better than no publicity at all.

The premise of the piece was that certain lawyers were suggesting private investigators are not as necessary as they once were in divorce cases thanks to electronic information and social media etc. “Private detectives are mostly gone. Computer techs are the new experts,” said one.

Wow, am I glad that’s not true!

We conduct a ton of high-level family investigations with a focus in Fairfield County, and I am glad to say that nothing could be further than the truth – we, and my colleagues who are high-quality investigators, are busier than ever. And we work with most of the big family law firms.

Sure, some affairs can be discovered more easily due to texts, emails and messages retrieved from phones and computers, but this does not affect all the other, highly critical work necessary in family cases, the bulk of which are custody and cohabitation cases, asset investigations and, yes, identifying affairs.

“From tracking devices to social media, there is a significant decrease in the need to hire a PI”, said another attorney, adding “Sometimes a person’s own conduct on social media is the best evidence of their judgment.” Wow! Sure, social media is a component in 100% of every investigation we do, and we use tracking devices when legally allowed to do so. But to think that PI’s are going away because of those two components is naïve. Technology and social media are certainly important components, but they are just part of the equation in family cases that are almost always complex projects with a lot of moving parts.

While I’m happy for the exposure, of course only a few of the items I contributed were published, so here’s a full summary of what I provided to the Connecticut Law Tribune: I couldn’t have said it better myself…

From our perspective, electronic information is only enhancing our work, not reducing it. The idea that conventional PI work is dwindling, I’m thankful to say, is just not true – in fact, ubiquitous electronic data actually guarantees that there is even more need than ever for the skilled investigator. Of course, public and commercial databases contain more and more information, from both a depth and jurisdictional perspective, but it is the skill of the investigator that is required to plough through the data and determine what information involves our subject and what does not. Remember: databases don’t think, they just link – it’s up to us more than ever to determine what information is pertinent and what can be eliminated. But that’s only just the beginning: The mobile surveillance industry is stronger than ever and attorneys show no signs of slowing down in their need to understand the daily activities of plaintiffs; court case documents still have to be pulled and reviewed onsite at courthouses; driver’s histories for litigation cases can still only be obtained onsite at Connecticut DMV in Wethersfield; subpoenas still have to be served in person; cohabitation activity checks still require an ongoing physical presence; cameras still require physical installation; electronic sweeps can only be conducted onsite by trained experts; effective forensic handwriting analysis requires an expert with dozens of years of experience; tough locates still often require knocking on doors and neighborhood inquiries; and interviews can only be effectively conducted in person, as absolutely no one will talk freely over the phone anymore thanks to telemarketers and scams.

Physical, mobile surveillance is a routine component for many family attorneys, however, electronic surveillance through GPS tracking devices is illegal unless you own the vehicle on which they are placed. Any such information would be illegally obtained and, more importantly, inadmissible. We use social media in just about every case now, but information can only be legally gathered from the public portions of social media accounts, otherwise again, the information gained would be inadmissible. Accessing metadata from phones through geo-fences and the like depends on a subject keeping their location services on and active, which most people of interest don’t. Either way, knowing where they physically are still doesn’t tell you what they’re doing.

It is the very fact that electronic information is so readily available that real, skilled, actual investigators are needed even more than ever. Our litigation work is booming and thankfully, from my perspective, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Preparation and Patience: The Reality of Family Investigations

Up until about eight years ago, I shied away from handling divorce, matrimonial, custody and infidelity cases (which I will collectively refer to as “family” investigations), since I had presumed they were messy. The corporate world was so much “cleaner”.

Then one of our corporate clients asked me to become involved in a very difficult family situation. I knew that many in our industry were not comfortable handling family matters since: a) there is too much emotion involved, and; b) the results can be bad news – and no one wants to muddy a strong corporate relationship with a messy, emotional family matter.

And boy, they were absolutely right!

But what I learned in the process is just how valuable the information, if gathered responsibly, can be. Fast forward eight years, and providing high-end family investigative services has become a staple part of our business. But it takes great care, preparation, experience and patience to do well, so I’d like to take some time to share my thoughts on some aspects of our family work which I hope will provide value:

Custody

It may surprise you, but custody issues account for over half of all family investigations we handle. Many clients have safety concerns regarding mom’s new boyfriend or dad’s new girlfriend, and rightfully so. In shared parenting relationships, parents want to know who their children are spending time with and we routinely provide detailed background checks on new spousal partners. As you can imagine, a history of drugs, violence, prostitution, gambling, alcohol or financial issues is a very real concern for parents of children who will be around new partners. A solid background check can put their fears to rest, or as in many cases we’ve had, allow them to petition the court with the information they need to help ensure a safe environment for their children.

Some parents have real and genuine concerns about their children’s activities while they are with the other parent and we often conduct discreet surveillance to observe those activities. We’ve seen very young children left unattended for long periods each night, including one woman who left her three children, all under the age of ten, alone while she spent several hours every night satisfying a $5,000-a-week scratch off lottery ticket addiction. That one surprised even me.

Cohabitation

Under the terms of dissolution, there is often a cohabitation agreement in which alimony or other payments are dependent on the recipient living alone, that is, without a live-in partner. We have conducted dozens of cohabitation investigations and proving cohabitation all boils down to the threshold the attorney feels is sufficient to go to bat. That is, it’s not up to you or me.

For example, one attorney may feel that three consecutive nights of cohabitation is sufficient to prove cohabitation, while another may feel that nothing less than five nights of any consecutive seven is sufficient. We had one case where a male friend stayed over every Monday and Thursday, and on Saturdays when the ex-wife did not have the children. Is that cohabitation? Point is, it all depends on the attorney’s threshold, not my opinion or yours.

We generally use vehicles to prove cohabitation, with additional surveillance to provide evidentiary support. That is, if a subject’s vehicle is present at an address at 10:00 pm and then is still there at 6:00 am, then he or she is generally deemed to have stayed overnight. Subsequent surveillance video on one or more of those mornings showing the subject entering his vehicle and departing the residence provides the evidentiary support. One major obstacle of course is when the layout or a long driveway, tall trees, or other obstructions prevent being able to view vehicles from the public domain. In those cases, proving cohabitation does not become impossible, it just becomes more time consuming, as longer term surveillance is required on each evening and morning, rather than just activity checks.

Infidelity

We’ve followed subjects through towns, cities and states, on trains, highways and planes. Successful infidelity surveillance involves extensive preparation, intensive coverage, hard work and usually a deep budget. Anything less and it’s amateur hour, so beware.

Pornography and Casual Encounters

One of the more distressing components of modern life is the ubiquitous availability of free pornography and casual sexual encounters through free and subscription websites and databases. The ability to view pornography and to arrange a sex meeting on a phone within minutes is a curse of society which is tearing relationships apart. Each situation is different and our investigation may involve computer or phone forensics, surveillance, undercover stings and/or other research. We are familiar with them all and we understand the distress and uncertainty this problem can bring to a relationship.

The above topics are by no means the extent of family matters we investigate. We identify hidden assets; conduct fraud investigations involving family and other caregivers for the elderly; conduct computer, DNA and handwriting analysis; investigate theft of intellectual property; research property disputes – you name it, it all happens between spouses and family. But if you have a sensitive family issue I do have some advice:

  1. Get several opinions regarding investigative strategy – a financial investigator wants to follow the money; a computer investigator wants to analyze the computers; and a surveillance expert wants to follow. Sometimes you need all three, but get different investigative perspectives before initiating any investigation.
  1. Never work outside of your attorney’s direction and always let him or her lead the charge. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to gather information yourself, or to obtain it from an unknown source. Information and the way it is gathered can hurt you and your case.

Family investigations are, by definition, difficult, emotional and time consuming, and they need to be handled with care and sensitivity. But I’m glad I became involved with family work years ago and if you want to get my opinion on your situation, please give me a call – I get it now.