How to Become a Civil Investigator

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A domestic investigator, also often referred to as a civil investigator, is a private investigator that specializes in investigating personal matters. Individuals may hire a civil investigator when they need concrete evidence regarding personal or domestic matters such as these professionals that are skilled at uncovering information and providing surveillance for many issues.

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Domestic and civil investigator jobs most often focus on these areas of specialization under their civil investigation:

Marital Issues/Divorce

Many domestic investigators focus their careers on marital investigations, such as infidelity and divorce. These professionals may be able to provide a suspicious spouse with the evidence needed to prove infidelity. Their professional, discreet methods allow them to perform the necessary investigative work without alerting the subject of the investigation. In cases of divorce, domestic investigators may be called upon to find evidence that will be used against a spouse in divorce proceedings, such as evidence of infidelity, drug use, gambling, or other illegal/immoral activities.

Child Custody/Child Abuse/Child Support

As an aftermath of the Covid 19 pandemic, researchers analyzed data on more than 39,000 children treated at nine pediatric trauma centers between March and September 2020 out of which 2,064 were victims of suspected child abuse.

Child custody cases are often very contentious, with many parents seeking information on the other parent to change or maintain child custody arrangements. For example, individuals may hire domestic investigators to conduct surveillance to ensure that neglect, abuse, and negligence are not occurring when their child is in the care of the other parent, or a caregiver is hired by the other parent. Child custody investigations may also involve ensuring that the other parent is adhering to the terms and conditions of the child custody arrangement. This may involve everything from what the child is eating to the places the child is or is not allowed to visit.

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Another common child custody investigation involves identifying the location of the other parent when child support is not being paid. This may be essential for ensuring that the court is made aware of where to locate the “deadbeat” parent to collect child support payments.


Private investigators in domestic investigations are often called upon to perform background checks and conduct surveillance on caregivers for children, seniors, and pets. Individuals may hire a domestic investigator to perform a full background check on a babysitter, nanny, or housekeeper, for example, or they may ask the domestic investigator to conduct surveillance on the caregiver while on the job. Domestic investigators may be hired to ensure that the caregiver is responsible and attentive, or they may be hired when abuse or neglect is suspected.

You will be surprised to know that around 79.7% of child fatalities involve at least one parent. As a matter of fact, the effects of parental alcoholism and substance abuse on children can be large and long-lasting. 


Individuals concerned about a stalking issue with an ex-lover, ex-spouse, co-worker, or other individuals may hire domestic investigators to conduct surveillance to confirm their suspicions, gather evidence to enact a protective order, or ensure they are abiding by the law and not violating a current protective order.

What is all the more alarming is that 3 out of 4 stalking victims know their stalkers in some capacity. The most common relationship between the victim and perpetrator is a current or former intimate partner.


Parents, spouses, and other family members who have concerns about drug use among a member of their family often hire domestic investigators to gather evidence and conduct surveillance to determine if their suspicions are right. 

Drug and/or alcohol abuse by parents and caregivers mostly results in neglect of the children/spouse and threatened abuse.

Parents may hire domestic investigators to ensure their children are not engaging in illegal or illicit activities, and spouses may hire domestic investigators to conduct surveillance to ensure their spouse is not secretly drinking, gambling, or engaging in other activities they deem unacceptable or dangerous.

Domestic Abuse

Private investigators may be called in to help an individual prove domestic abuse. Domestic investigators may help individuals record instances of physical, mental, sexual, or emotional abuse. These investigative professionals may also help individuals uncover the truth about whether a loved one is being abused in a domestic situation. Evidence gathered from a domestic abuse situation may be helpful in divorce hearings, child custody arrangements, when pressing charges, and when seeking protection from abuse from the courts.

According to National Statistics Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States and within one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

Other common areas in which domestic investigators may practice include:

  • Product liability investigations
  • Wrongful death investigations
  • Defamation (slander, libel) investigations
  • Personal injury investigations

Careers in Domestic/Civil Investigations

Domestic investigators must be licensed, in most states, as private investigators, which usually involves meeting a number of minimum requirements, including education, training, and experience. Further, these professionals must have a thorough understanding of the law and the criminal and civil justice systems, particularly regarding the legality of obtaining information and conducting research. Because of this, many individuals interested in pursuing a career as a domestic investigator often complete a course of study in criminal justice, criminal justice administration, social justice, or a similar program. Common programs in criminal justice include associate and bachelor’s degrees, graduate degrees, and graduate certificates for those that already have a bachelor’s.

A comprehensive program in criminal justice should include the following topics:

  • Theories of crime prevention
  • Professional ethics
  • Organizational administration
  • Criminology
  • Social science research
  • Communication strategies
  • The criminal and civil investigation
  • Criminal and civil law
  • Public safety statistics

Professional Certification for Domestic/Civil Investigators

ASIS International offers the Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) credential, which requires at least 5 years of investigations experience. This program is designed to demonstrate an individual’s experience and skill in evidence collection and case management.

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To become certified as a Professional Certified Investigator, individuals must successfully complete the PCI exam, which includes 125, multiple-choice questions in the following areas:

  • Case management (29 percent)
  • Investigative techniques and procedures (50 percent)
  • Case presentation (21 percent)

Individuals may also achieve professional certification through their state’s licensed investigator association to carry on with their much-required service!

Interested in becoming a Civil Investigator? Find a PI program to start your career.

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