Domestic investigators, also often referred to as civil investigators, are private investigators that specialize in personal matters. Individuals may hire a domestic investigator when they need concrete evidence regarding personal and/or domestic matters, as these professionals are skilled at uncovering information and providing surveillance for many issues.
Domestic and civil investigator jobs most often focus on these areas of specialization:
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
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 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.
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.
Individuals concerned about a stalking issue with an ex-lover, ex-spouse, co-worker, or other individual 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.
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. 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.
Private investigators may be called in to help an individual prove domestic abuse. Domestic investigators may help an individual 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.
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 a private investigator, 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 of 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, as well as 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
- Social science research
- Communication strategies
- 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.
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.