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Helping a Private Investigator Serve Your Ex

Y Michael Yin, JD

In civil cases, defendants sometimes go to great lengths to avoid being served. The reasons they do this can come down to anything, including just making it difficult for you. Service according to our rules of civil procedure begins with the sheriff or by mailing it USPS certified mail. When those methods are unsuccessful because your ex is avoiding service, we here at Woodruff often get a private investigator to track them down and personally serve them.

Here are some tips and pointers for helping the PI in serving your documents:

  1. Provide Accurate Information: Offer as much information as possible about the person’s whereabouts, daily routines, and schedule. This includes their home address, workplace address, regular activities, and any other relevant details that might help the investigator locate them. Defendants typically do not change their daily schedules, so the time they leave for work or the gym, etc., are often opportunities for the PI to serve them.
  2. Be Transparent: It’s crucial to be transparent with the private investigator about the nature of the case and why the individual needs to be served. This helps them understand the importance of the task and approach it with the necessary professionalism and sensitivity. This also helps in determining what precautions the PI would need to take.
  3. Cooperate with the Investigator: Be available to answer any questions the investigator may have and cooperate fully with their requests for information or assistance. This might include providing documentation or other evidence related to the case. Often, license plates, a recent photo, or the make and model of a car can be used to locate and surveil the defendant.
  4. Respect Privacy Laws: Make sure that any information you provide or actions you take to assist the investigator are within the bounds of privacy laws and regulations. Avoid any activities that could be considered unlawful or unethical. It is highly recommended you speak to your attorney about anything that could potentially be an invasion of privacy. The goal is to serve the defendant, not become one.
  5. Be Patient: Serving someone can sometimes take time, especially if the person is actively avoiding being served. If the defendant is truly taking extreme measures, e.g., changing their routine and schedules, or even fleeing, then service may take a while. Speak to your attorney about alternative means if this becomes an issue or if there is urgency.
  6. Communicate Openly: Maintain open lines of communication with the private investigator throughout the process. If there are any changes or developments that may affect the case, make sure to inform the investigator promptly. Sometimes, you may catch wind that the defendant has moved or will be at the airport at a certain time. Communicate this to the PI. For those extreme cases, this can be the break they need.

By following these steps and working closely with the private investigator and your attorney, you can help ensure that the individual is served in a timely and effective manner.