Whether you’re a victim of infidelity or a lawyer seeking evidence for your client, finding concrete evidence of infidelity is a job best done by a private investigator. Investigators know where and how to look in a way that won’t get you in any legal trouble (like spy apps and other dubious practices likely will), and will be able to get you the evidence you need quickly and discreetly.
For private investigators, this kind of case often comes down to surveillance. While technology has greatly increased the effectiveness and efficiency with which private investigators work (they can usually use special databases to find likely venues in which infidelity is likely to occur), in the end, there’s nothing like having someone on the ground with a camera. Here’s how private investigators charge for this work, and how much you’re likely to pay:
How Investigators Charge
There are usually two ways that investigators charge for running surveillance on a potentially unfaithful spouse (known as the Person of Interest or POI in investigator jargon): hourly rates and retainers. This is also sometimes accompanied by incidental expenses unique to the case like travel.
How Hourly Rates and Retainers Work
- Hourly rates. Hourly rates change depending on your location and investigator, but they usually fall between $40-$120 per hour. Most investigators will reduce their price per hour if you hire them for a large number of hours – this is important since investigations involving surveillance can take a decent amount of time. If you do hire an investigator, make sure they offer this sort of reduced rate.
- Retainers. A retainer is really just a down payment for an investigator’s work. They can vary from $1,000 to as high as $5,000 based on your needs and the investigator’s policy. Keep in mind that some investigators will charge against your retainer and refund anything that they don’t use. Other investigators will charge you a retainer and keep the full amount whether or not they use all of it.
Investigators will also incur expenses while they’re following your POI. Some of the most common expenses are:
- Drive Time/Mileage: How long and how many miles it takes for an Investigator to follow someone.
- Tolls: Any tolls that your investigator has to pay during the investigation.
- Airline Fare: If your investigator has to fly to your job site, you should expect to foot the bill for the plane tickets.
- Hotel Fees: If your job requires an investigator to spend the evening in a hotel, you should expect to cover their room.
- Court Appearances: If your investigator has to testify, they usually will charge for their time in court.
- Administrative Costs: Not all investigators charge for this, but some will charge for things like mailing evidence, faxing, etc.
These expenses will be billed to you unless you’ve agreed differently before the investigation begins.
How Much Your Case Might Cost
While surveillance cases of this type can run from three hours to 15 hours or more (putting your cost at $300-$1215 using Trustify’s case calculator), the easiest way to put it is this: every case is different, and it depends.
Every investigation is different, and people are unpredictable. Your investigator may only need a couple of hours to get the evidence you need – or the POI may be smarter or more infrequent in their indiscretions, making the case take longer. You should go into an investigation with an open mind and be ready for whatever the investigator finds.
4 Tips for Reducing Cost and Getting the Evidence You Need
Here are a few things that you can do to reduce the potential cost of an investigation, and increase your chances of receiving the evidence you need:
- Purchase more time than you think you will need. More often than not you will need more time. For example, 10 hours into an investigation you might find that the POI had lunch with a coworker. That alone might not prove cheating, but it is a good lead worth chasing down.
- Listen to your investigator. For many people, this will be their first time hiring an investigator. This may have been a difficult decision. Remember that your investigator does this for a living. They will always know the best ways to get the evidence you’re looking for.
- Provide as much information as possible. The more information you give your investigator, the better chance they have of catching your POI in the act.
- Pay attention. If you’ve hired an investigator to put surveillance on your spouse, it’s usually because you’ve noticed a change in their behavior. These changes can help point your investigator to the best times to catch them. For example, if your spouse normally comes straight home after work but now they come home three hours late, then you should let your investigator know.
Hopefully you now have a clear understanding of what and why you can expect to pay when you hire a private investigator to get evidence of infidelity. Before agreeing to starting a case, make sure you go over these details with the agency that’s hiring the investigator directly. Practices vary greatly across the industry, so don’t assume that pricing and policy will be similar among all investigators.
Best of luck!