Suspected infidelity, child custody actions, divorce actions, and domestic violence are just a few of the reasons a person may consider hiring a private investigator.
In this episode, your host and guide, Charlotte Family Law Attorney Leigh Sellers, sits down with Private Investigator Jan Barefoot, founder of Barefoot Professional Investigations. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Barefoot Professional Investigations has been providing extensive investigative services for more than 30 years. You can connect with Jan at barefootpi.com, 704.927.9666, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The insights and views presented in “Welcome to Splitsville” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey through divorce, contact Leigh Sellers and her team (NC & SC) at;http://www.TouchstoneFamilyLaw.com[spp-transcript]
Speaker 1: 00:01 Hello there. Going through a divorce? Considering one? Sorry to hear that, but here you are. Welcome to Splitsville. You’ll find Splitsville to be a pretty unique place. A new world, really. With its own rules, its own expectations, and in many ways, its own language. But don’t worry. You have a knowledgeable guide along the way. A family law attorney with three decades of experience under her belt. And now, here she is. Your host and guide, Leigh Sellers.
Leigh Sellers: 00:36 Hi everyone. And thanks for tuning into another episode of Welcome to Splitsville. I’m your host and guide Leigh Sellers, founder of Touchstone Family Law. And in this episode, I’ll be answering another question that many newcomers to Splitsville have, what can a PI do for you? So let’s dive in.
So today we have Jan Barefoot with us, who is a private investigator in the Charlotte area and beyond. And we have brought her in here to talk a little bit about what she does and doesn’t do in the capacity as a private investigator because we see so much of that work in what we do with clients who are separating or divorcing where they feel that they need to employ the services of a private investigator. So thank you, Jan, for coming.
Jan Barefoot: 01:29 Thanks for having me. It’s great to see you.
Leigh Sellers: 01:31 Well why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about your company and what you do.
Jan Barefoot: 01:35 So we are a full service private investigation company. I’ve been in business since 1986. So just over 32 years. I have five full-time employees and a couple of part-time employees. And we offer all types of surveillance cases. The obvious domestic surveillance, personal injury, workers comp. We also do background checks, locate service or process, do criminal defense work. Everything from assault cases to rape cases to capital murder cases.
Leigh Sellers: 02:07 So I know I personally will suggest a private investigator, or use a private investigator, definitely to locate an opposing party that’s difficult to find or a witness that’s difficult to find and process service. And even occasionally to follow someone to see if maybe they’re employed somewhere or earning some money somewhere that they didn’t really want to report. But most of the time my experience with private investigators comes when I have a client that comes in and they are concerned that their spouse is having an affair, in a relationship with someone else, or behaving inappropriately perhaps devolved into some addiction, or gambling, or something like that. And they’re really wanting to figure out how they’re going to find out, number one. And number two, if they feel they already know, how are they gonna prove it? And so they often come to me and ask what do I do. So we do end up being on the receiving end of a lot of PI reports. But when these people call you, what is it like from your perspective when they’re calling you? Because sometimes they’ll call you before they call me.
Jan Barefoot: 03:20 Yeah, that’s actually fairly common. Probably about 70% of our work is domestic related in one form or another. Probably about half of that, they’re calling us first. And half of the … The other half, they’re calling the attorneys first. So I have 32 years of experience so I guide them cautiously without giving them legal advice. So if they don’t yet have an attorney, then we’ll go into the case and just really kind of figure out what’s going on and get them a good basis of what’s … Just exactly what we’re finding and what’s going on. And then they can decide which way they want to go from there. Typically I urge them strongly to go at least consult with an attorney before they confront their spouse or because they don’t want to mess their case up before it even gets started. And so the main thing is for them to protect themselves. So I tell them, “Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. You need to go and get some advice from an attorney to figure out the best way to handle your situation.”
Leigh Sellers: 04:17 Right, how to use that information and whether or not it is useful.
Jan Barefoot: 04:21 Right.
Leigh Sellers: 04:22 So what are some of the things that you need from a client? A person that comes in to hire you. What do they need to be prepared to explain to you and what information do you expect them to be able to provide you to do your job?
Jan Barefoot: 04:36 Well, most people are really intimidated and nervous before they call an investigator because they’ve usually never spoken with one. Never ever dreamed that they would need one. So it’s really very simple. I can do it in a 20 minute phone conversation with them. I need addresses, names, descriptions, vehicle descriptions, license plates if they can get them. If not, we can usually get those. And then more often, what we need is just a conversation about their habits because oftentimes they know exactly when something might be happening. But most of the time they don’t. So I need to hear their story and can usually at that point offer them some suggestions on when the best time to do surveillance would be.
Leigh Sellers: 05:22 Now, if they’re going to engage you to do the work after they’ve talked to you and sort of explained their situation, what should they be prepared to do? Is there gonna be a contract? Are they gonna come meet with you personally? How do you handle actually taking in a client after that phone call?
Jan Barefoot: 05:40 We do have a contract. And I leave that up to the client. Often, today, people are so busy they just want to handle it by phone. But I always tell them if you’re more comfortable coming in, you want to see me, and meet me, and feel just comfortable with who they’re paying money to, I’m completely fine with that. But as I mentioned, it’s really a 20 minute phone conversation. So then we get … Once we can email photographs, I can email them a contract or they can come in. And then of course, they need to pay a retainer. And then once we get that information together, we can get started from there.
Leigh Sellers: 06:15 So what’s the most typical kind of surveillance that you’re asked to do?
Jan Barefoot: 06:21 Probably the most typical is adultery. A husband or wife who thinks their spouse is cheating with someone. Sometimes they know who and sometimes they don’t. So that’s the most common. But we also do child custody cases. So we’ll so surveillance on the parent while they have custody of the child. Or sometimes when the child’s not with them, depending on the behavior they’re looking for.
Leigh Sellers: 06:45 What do you think the biggest misperception your clients have from everything they’ve seen on TV about what they could expect you to do?
Jan Barefoot: 06:53 I think a lot of people think that we can tap phones, and put cameras inside houses, and … But also a lot of people think that we have to see them in the act. They think that that’s the only way you can prove it. So kind of explaining to them what’s necessary in North Carolina to prove evidence of adultery, that tends to make them feel better because it’s not … We don’t have to see them in the act. Although occasionally we do.
Leigh Sellers: 07:17 That just one of those extras I guess. More information than you need sometimes when you’re doing the job.
Jan Barefoot: 07:24 That’s exactly right. Yes.
Leigh Sellers: 07:26 So tell us a little bit about when you’re talking about surveillance. What is it? Is it cameras? Is it … Are you present watching the whole time filming? Just what generally are you going to be able to accomplish? Are you following people around town? Sitting in restaurants with them?
Jan Barefoot: 07:46 Yes and yes.
Leigh Sellers: 07:47 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jan Barefoot: 07:48 So typically once we establish the best time to do surveillance, for example, that may be after work. If somebody says they’re have a business dinner and so we obviously would begin surveillance late in the day. Pick them up, actually following them, see where they go. If they go to a restaurant or a bar, then we’ll go inside and see who they’re meeting with. And it may turn out to be a client meeting or a business partner meeting. Oftentimes it doesn’t. And so then we’ll follow them when they leave the restaurant and see what they do afterwards. Try to observe some sign of affection between them.
And so we do, of course, have video cameras and we will use a variety of types of cameras. Sometimes they’re as small as an inch by inch. And we’ll take that inside a restaurant. That’s got a wide angle lens so we’re able to see behavior and activity there. That’s something that we might be able to also install in a hotel and see them coming in and out of the room. So sometimes we use our phones. We might be on an elevator with them and need to take a picture and we just use our phones because everybody’s got a phone in their hands these days.
Leigh Sellers: 08:55 That is true. Now, if you are actively following someone, so what sort of manpower does it take if you’re trying to actually drive through Charlotte traffic and follow people?
Jan Barefoot: 09:09 Well, obviously, it’s becoming increasingly difficult. Most of the time, we use two investigators in two separate cars. And of course, we do a lot of switching off, a lot of turning off, so that the same car is not behind them the same time and the same person. There are situations where we can put a GPS on the other vehicle. And if the GPS applies in that situation, then usually we can just use one investigator, which then will cost in half. So they kind of get more bang for their buck if we are able to do it that way.
Leigh Sellers: 09:41 So what are their parameters? I mean, I know what they are. But can you share with the listeners about when it is that you can legally use the GPS as an alternative to just having two people in two cars and following the old fashion way?
Jan Barefoot: 09:56 Sure. Well, there is no real clear cut law. There are attorneys who are very conservative about GPS use and there’s attorneys who are not as conservative. And so I certainly respect if they have an attorney on board at that point, I respect what that attorney wants us to do as far as how to handle a case. My business method has always been if the vehicle is considered to be marital property. So regardless of how it’s titled, whether it’s in his name, her name, or both names, if the vehicle was acquired during the marriage, then I personally am comfortable putting a GPS on that vehicle. If, for example, the husband drives a corporate vehicle, then that is not a vehicle that we would put the GPS on. Because the spouse can’t give us permission to do so.
Leigh Sellers: 10:43 Or as well as a family … Another member of the family gave a car, or gifted a car that’s not titled in either spouses name.
Jan Barefoot: 10:52 That’s correct.
Leigh Sellers: 10:53 So this might be a good time for you to talk about the training and the licenses that official properly licensed private investigators carry.
Jan Barefoot: 11:06 Yeah, in North Carolina we have an application process. And North Carolina does require you to have a license. All states don’t, most do. And the licensing process is quite grueling. It’s about a 12 page application and you’ve gotta submit references that sign and notarize statement about your character. You’ve gotta submit a credit report. Obviously, a criminal history. And North Carolina has two levels of licensing. There is a full investigators license. You can get that full license if you’ve had 3000 hours of investigative experience within the last 10 years. If you do not have that experience, you can get what’s called an associate’s level license. The only difference in those two licenses is that with an associates license, you cannot go out and start your own business. You do the same duties. I have people who are associates under me and who are fully licensed. They do the same duties. Just you have to have that full license to start your own business. And that licensing process, we have a board that meets every other month. And honestly, it can take six to eight weeks to get your license.
And then the state does have some required training. Of course, every company is different as to their own personal methods of training and how much they train. But certainly, everyone has to start somewhere. But we supervise our new investigators very closely. We’re not necessarily always right there with them, but we’re talking with them continuously about what do you have going on, what are you gonna do next, giving them advice until they kinda learn the ropes.
Leigh Sellers: 12:44 Because you want to be sure that you’re not breaking any laws.
Jan Barefoot: 12:47 Absolutely.
Leigh Sellers: 12:48 Violating anyone’s privacy or putting yourself at risk of getting in trouble.
Jan Barefoot: 12:55 Right. And most of the time, our cases, we don’t have a do over because we’re out there, just real time and it’s really hard for us to go back and do it again or have another opportunity to do it again. Sometimes we do, but not always.
Leigh Sellers: 13:10 And I never recommend that people do this themselves or get a friend. Have somebody who comes in and they’re just like, “Well, my friend and I want to follow him,” or, “My two best friends are gonna get in the car and follow them.” And I’m always like no, no. You really need a professional to do this. To make sure that it’s done properly.
Jan Barefoot: 13:30 Yeah, well and the most important part about that is they’re likely to get spotted. And if they do get burned, as we call it, then it’s very hard for us to come in afterwards now that you’ve got the person already paranoid. So that’s the main reason. And it can be dangerous. And if your client is following them, then they have all these emotions that they’re dealing with. And so when they see something that they don’t want to see, then things can start to happen. So sometimes, I have a client that says, “Hey, I want to go with you.” I’m like, ” No, I’ve never in 32 years ever taken a client on surveillance for that reason because people can get hurt.”
Leigh Sellers: 14:07 So what do you think are some of the more common lines that you draw? So what are things when clients call and ask you to do that you’re just like, “No, that is absolutely not something we’re gonna do and we don’t recommend that you do it either.”
Jan Barefoot: 14:23 I do have people ask to put cameras in their own house and they’re often surprised that they can’t do that without the other spouse’s knowledge. And that’s not a criminal violation, it’s an invasion of privacy. And so potentially they can be sued for that and potentially their evidence could not be admitted. So it’s never recommended. I do have people who want to try to put spyware on their laptops, or their devices, or their phones. And of course, we don’t do any of that. I have clients that have done that kind of thing. And then that’s really the most two common most request that they ask us to do. We don’t break any laws. I mean, we’ll walk down the street, we’ll see … Look in people’s windows. If their curtains are open, then we’re gonna see in. They don’t have a right to privacy if they’re gonna have their curtains open. We’re gonna sneak around a little bit, but we don’t break any laws.
Leigh Sellers: 15:21 Mm-hmm (affirmative). You ever go into any trash cans?
Jan Barefoot: 15:24 Absolutely.
Leigh Sellers: 15:25 Yeah, what are the rules about that? That’s kind of actually one of my favorite ones.
Jan Barefoot: 15:30 So as long as the trash is put out to the curb, then it’s kind of fair game. And so we do a fair amount of that. A lot of times we do that in relation to custody cases. If there’s an alcohol issue with one of the other parents and so the recycling bin is a great place to look for that kind of behavior.
Leigh Sellers: 15:52 And what about the reports that you produce? I’ve seen a lot of them and it’s actually very detailed. But explain sort of what the product ends up being.
Jan Barefoot: 16:02 So of course, the clients will get verbal updates all throughout. We’re in tight communication with them during the surveillance, after each surveillance. They know pretty much right away what’s going on. But once we get to a milestone, a point where they’ve either said I can’t do it anymore or the attorney has decided we have enough, then we do compile the report and it’s extremely detailed. I mean, it can minute by minute basically, turn by turn. We try to paint a picture for them. So when my investigators are out doing the work, when I review the report in the end, even though I wasn’t there, I should be able to see a movie in my head of what just happened. And so I feel like the clients deserve that. They’re paying for us to get them everything they can. So we’ll provide that written report. And then we’ll also put together a video for them of whatever video surveillance we were able to get.
Leigh Sellers: 17:00 So how much should a client expect to spend? Is there any average or is it gonna depend on the situation?
Jan Barefoot: 17:10 It’s so dependent on the situation. And I think sometimes clients are a little frustrated because they do say what’s the average and there just is no average because I have people who have us go out and do one day of surveillance and we get what we need and they can’t do anymore or they decide not to do anymore. And I have some clients who we do 90 days, 120 days of surveillance straight for. So there’s just no rhyme or reason.
Leigh Sellers: 17:36 What about travel? So I’ve had people certainly suggest, “Oh, there’s a business trip and it’s in Vail. And I want to get a PI to go travel to Vail.” And as exciting as that sounds, there’s some limitations on what you can do and how you have to handle that, isn’t there?
Jan Barefoot: 17:56 Well, there are limitations. In certain states, it depends on the licensing requirement. Most of our bordering states, we have reciprocal agreements with. So as long as your case originates here, we can go. But there’s definitely advantages for the client to hire us to go to where the case is or hire a PI in that area. Sometimes-
Leigh Sellers: 18:21 So do you ever do that? Like associate somebody if you were … If it was Vegas or another jurisdiction? Do you ever stay on it, but then hire somebody else to hand it off to?
Jan Barefoot: 18:32 Yes, there are times where I just refer the client directly to that person. And then there are times where the attorney wants me to stay involved so that I can make sure that that person knows and what we need in North Carolina because every state’s different. So it’s different every time as to whether I stay in and coordinate it. Sometimes they don’t need to pay me to do that and so I just step away until they need me here.
Leigh Sellers: 18:56 What are some of the things that should maybe put somebody on notice that they should hire a PI?
Jan Barefoot: 19:05 Well, the gut and the intuition is just always right on. Whenever they sense that something’s wrong. And people often laugh about oh they went out and got a new wardrobe or they’re losing weight, but it is just so true. I mean, it’s just spot on every time. When the wife or the husband comes to me and says, “Oh, they haven’t worked out in 15 years and they joined the Y and now they’ve gone shopping. I always bought his clothes. Now he wants me to buy the clothes … I mean him to buy the clothes.” And so those are all indicators. When they’re taking longer than they’re supposed to be. When the trip home takes two hours instead of 30 minutes. Or they’re running out on a Saturday afternoon. It’s just behavior that’s different than what it normally was.
Leigh Sellers: 19:51 Mm-hmm (affirmative). And the expenses. It seems to me that when you don’t want to be tracked. Everybody uses debit cards all the time. One of the things that I noticed of all this and there’s a lot of cash withdrawals. Those are atypical so that they can spend without being noticed.
Jan Barefoot: 20:11 Yes, we do see that a lot. And we’ll see the people go to the ATMs. Unfortunately, it’s oftentimes you see those cash withdrawals that are related to prostitution and escort services.
Leigh Sellers: 20:22 Yeah. So I’ve read a lot in the news about the sort of sex trafficking problem that Charlotte has. So you’re talking about prostitutes. And I can imagine that you have actually probably encountered a fair amount of your surveillance not being kinda what we see in the movies. Some sort of [inaudible 00:20:44] relationship where it’s a real … I don’t know. Real live person that somebody is seeing on a consistent basis. But I’ve seen an increase in this revolving character of people. That there are definitely a larger number of people paying for relationships with people.
Jan Barefoot: 21:02 Definitely. I mean, the most common is of course the relationship. But we are seeing more and more with the websites, the back page, and the sugar daddy, I don’t even know all of them now. And what’s really surprising is the professionals. The male professionals that you see coming into the city or even in their own home city where they’re hiring those types of people. And it can range from driving in a section of town where they’re known to walk or hotels where they’re known to stay at to several thousand dollars a night where you’re paying somebody to be your escort. And sadly, we’re seeing a lot of follow up to that. Where men are doing that and then they’re later being blackmailed. And so sometimes, they’ll even take the escort to their house if their spouse is out of town or they tell the escort enough about them and they’re prominent businessmen and then the next thing they know, they find themselves victim of a blackmail situation. And it’s just a terrible situation for everybody to be in.
Leigh Sellers: 22:10 What about the danger? Some of these situations with especially the sex trade, there are some very dangerous people who are involved in it. Have you ever decided that look, there is just an area that I’m not going … An area of town I’m not gonna go follow up on or now I’m not going to get involved with this because … And you need to not either.
Jan Barefoot: 22:37 Not really. I mean, certainly we go to bad areas of town. And doing criminal defense work for as long as I did, I’ve spent a lot of hours in bad areas of town. We’ve done a lot of federal court murder cases that involve gangs. And so that is dangerous and it does get your attention. But typically, the domestic stuff is not … There’s always a risk for danger. But it’s not typically that dangerous.
Leigh Sellers: 23:07 So we’ve talked a lot about the cheating spouses, which is clearly one of the most common reasons that I think in domestic cases people hire private investigators. They do lead a little bit to the custody situation and drinking. And I know that that’s something that we’ve also used. So explain sort of the difference when you’re … Or is there any difference when you’re tracking someone to see if they’re being faithful to their spouse or you’re following people to see if they’re being a good safe parent?
Jan Barefoot: 23:38 Well, the surveillance is the same. What might differ is the times that you do surveillance. Most of the time in custody situations, you’re gonna want to do surveillance when the other parent has the child to prove they’re an unfit parent if that behavior is going on. There are times that we follow them without the child. If we see just really obvious drug behavior or we do see that someone’s prostituting, then that goes a lot towards character and so it just helps build a case for custody. But really, surveillance is surveillance. And we just gather and document what we see. And hopefully it can be of some benefit to the client.
Leigh Sellers: 24:17 So do you involve yourself in the technical aspects of surveillance in terms of … And by technical I mean the technology aspects in terms of looking at people’s phones, or computers, or any of that stuff. Or do you not handle that?
Jan Barefoot: 24:36 We do handle that. The forensic analysis of a laptop or a cell phone. Yeah, there’s a lot of information that’s available. But people think sometimes that they can just swipe their spouse’s phone and hand it off to us. And that’s not the case. If a phone has a passcode on it, especially if it’s an Apple, then as you see a lot about this in the news, sometimes you can’t get through that passcode. And so there are some regulations that you have to follow. It’s not as easy as people think it is. But we do offer that as a service and it is definitely … It’s more popular. But there are limitations.
Leigh Sellers: 25:16 Now, you mentioned to that you didn’t feel comfortable putting GPS systems, trackers, on company owned vehicles. And of course I’m assuming that also applies if it’s a company issued phone or a company issued computer. That’s not something that you need somebody to bring to you.
Jan Barefoot: 25:33 No, unless the company, which has come to me and said, “This was our employee’s phone, this was our employee’s laptop. I’d like for you to analyze it for me.” But if the spouse takes the phone that belongs to the company, then no. We can’t do that.
Leigh Sellers: 25:50 Well, I know that it probably … On TV, they make it seem kind of glamorous or exciting. But I assume that it’s actually really hard work to do what you do.
Jan Barefoot: 26:03 I tell people it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do PI work. It just really takes the right personality. I mean, if you’re trainable and you learn how to do this work, you have to have the right personality because you have to be able to sit in your car with not anything happening for a long time and then feel good about what you’re doing when things do happen. And document it the best you can. People think that sometimes when we go on a trip, it’s really glamorous. Well, it’s really not because we have to do what they do. Several years ago, we worked … Had a couple of trips down to the Virgin Islands and everybody would say, “Oh, yeah. That’s just awesome. You have a trip in the Virgin Islands.” Well we’re just going everywhere the person goes. And so that is boring and can get difficult sometimes.
Leigh Sellers: 26:50 Now, what are some barriers to being able to actually do surveillance when people come in and say, “I need you to do surveillance,” and you just end up being unable to actually follow that person and actually follow through in seeing what they’re doing?
Jan Barefoot: 27:10 Probably the number one barrier is if the client has confronted them and accused them and threatened to have them followed or tried to follow them themselves and they just have them so paranoid, then it’s very difficult for us to come in in any short time frame and get what they need. Sometimes we can wait a little bit, let them kinda calm down and stop being so paranoid. But that’s probably the biggest barrier that we face. And of course we … Our investigators have to blend in. So that’s different for every situation. So we have to have people that can, number one, go in and act like they belong where they are, but they also need to not stand out. So you have to have features that would describe you as maybe normal. So that can definitely be a challenge. Same thing with your car. You don’t want to do surveillance in a red Ferrari or a red Corvette. So everything needs to be neutral.
Leigh Sellers: 28:10 How are all of the gated communities cropping up around town affecting the situation? I know I have trouble even just getting certified mail and FedEx in to people these days for normal mail service.
Jan Barefoot: 28:24 Some of them are more secure than others. We can handle many of them, but there are some that we just have difficulties with. And so we just have to work it the best way we can. So instead of being able to see the door to the apartment, which is our main goal, we sit and watch the exit to the apartment.
Leigh Sellers: 28:44 So I would imagine that you’ve seen about everything about now.
Jan Barefoot: 28:50 Just when I think I’ve seen it all, somebody comes in and tells me another story.
Leigh Sellers: 28:54 I kind of say the same thing when people say, “I guess you’ve heard it all.” And I’ll be like, “Actually, this one was new.” And just everyday. But talk a little bit about your confidentiality. I mean, this is not cocktail conversation where you go places and be like, “Oh my god. You won’t believe what I just saw last week.”
Jan Barefoot: 29:11 Yeah, absolutely not. And that is just key. And my philosophy has been for 30 years your integrity and your confidentiality. And it only takes one slip up to blow that. And you have employees and you have to trust them. And so we really … That our employees are really … Try to get … I have very dedicated employees. You just have to have that dedication in your gut and in your heart to know that you just can’t talk about your cases other than some general stuff. And it needs to be long after the case is resolved. Of course, people want to hear stories all the time. They ask me, “Tell me your most famous story.” And of course, I can tell them something from 20 years ago that’s very general, that gives no specifics. But that’s very important to us, confidentiality. And people are most concerned about that because they’re so nervous about calling and they’ll say to me, “Oh, my spouse is very well known in the community and I need to be assured that they won’t find out.” So that’s important to them. And we … It’s important to us as well.
Leigh Sellers: 30:19 So obviously, I invited you on the show. So you’re on my short list of people that I know I trust my clients with. But I really do think that there’s so many people putting themselves out there. What should somebody who is looking to hire a private investigator? And obviously, you can’t do them all for a couple of reasons. But what are some things that they should really be looking for to make sure that they are going to get quality work and get the level of ethics that they should?
Jan Barefoot: 30:49 Well, of course, a referral. Hopefully an attorney referral. Because that’s gonna be an attorney who’s used that investigator and has a track record with them. It could also be a friend referral who’s used them and has a good track record and trusts them. But really, I think it’s just their comfort level. I mean, if you have a conversation with somebody, whether it’s over the phone or in person, most people will know how it feels. Does it feel right to you? Do you feel like this person is a good fit? And I tell my clients when I’m referring attorney’s to them, “You have to feel comfortable with that person. It’s not about their retainer. It can’t be about their retainer. You need to just find somebody that you’re comfortable with.” And I think that’s the same with investigators. Nowadays, everybody’s website looks great. So you go on the website five, 10 years ago, you could tell whether or not they were professional. But I think the main thing in our business is really just finding someone that is professional and that can write a report. There are … I’ve seen investigators come and go over the last 32 years and there were many people who were great investigators an they were poor business people. So they didn’t manage their businesses. They didn’t … So they ended up going out of business. And so I think just being professional and having a good track record is something that you need to look for.
Leigh Sellers: 32:10 Now how often have you had to go to court to talk about your surveillance and your reports
Jan Barefoot: 32:18 It’s not as often as one would think. I mean, I’ve certainly testified many times and my investigators have testified many times. But if we’re successful in our case and we get good information for the client, that typically causes things to settle before they go to court. But we do have occasion where we’re deposed and we end up in court.
Leigh Sellers: 32:40 What are some things that you think attorneys or people should be using you guys for that you don’t see that you get many calls for? Where you know you can provide value in these domestic situations and people just don’t think about it?
Jan Barefoot: 32:54 Well, I think it is obvious when people have a suspicion of adultery. They call us and so that referral is there. I think custody is an area where attorneys don’t always think about. If there’s a suspicion of drugs or alcohol or time spent with the child, then those things are obvious. But I think sometimes it’s just, okay, what are they doing with the kids? Are they sitting there playing their video games the whole time? Are they leaving them with a parent? If this is their weekend of visitation and they pick them up on Friday and Friday night they drop them off with grandma and they see them for two hours for breakfast on Saturday and then they go back to grandma’s house, I think showing a pattern of that is very valuable in custody situations when you’re trying to determine who’s gonna have the most quality time with the kids.
Leigh Sellers: 33:47 I know one thing that I like to have my clients look into is when they … And it’s usually in the context of custody. But when there is a new relationship that one of the former spouses has and they raise a concern. I’ve often said, “Well, get a background check done or have this person checked out if you don’t know who they are or they’re not from the community. Because it could provide you valuable information about who or what that person is.” Because typically, a former spouse isn’t gonna be super forthcoming about the details of their new relationship. Some are. But in a contentious situation, often they are not. So do you perform thorough background checks and these sorts of research?
Jan Barefoot: 34:32 Definitely. Definitely. The main things are you want to look for a criminal record, of course. And then you also want to look for driving history. Do they … Even as simple as do they have insurance on their car? If they’re gonna be driving your children around, you’re gonna want to know are they insured? Do they have a prior DWI? Do they have 10 speeding tickets? That’s just good information to know. And then we’ll also go and pull prior divorces and see what are the allegations that have been made against this person. That doesn’t mean that they’re true, but at least it will give you some sense of some past behavior. And then we can go as deep as the person wants to go. I mean, a lot of times we’ll get 911 calls to somebody’s residence because there may have been a domestic dispute that didn’t end in a criminal charge, which wouldn’t show up on their criminal record. So it’s not magic. Background checks are not magic. Sometimes people think we can push a button and find anything and everything about people. But we certainly try to do as thorough job as possible without alerting anybody, without talking to people, without doing interviews. There are cases where that’s appropriate, but in this situation, we would not do interviews or talk with anyone.
Leigh Sellers: 35:45 Now, what sort of information do you need to be able to do that? I mean, I know often if you apply for a job, you’re signing a consent for one. And so I think some people think that the other person has to consent. But what would they need to provide you for for you to be able to do an accurate one?
Jan Barefoot: 36:01 The best information is name and date of birth. But if they don’t have a date of birth, then an address is helpful. We can usually find a match. We have problems with very common names. And if they don’t know even an approximate age. But most of the time, we can find a match. And then once we get that confirmation, we run with it from there.
Leigh Sellers: 36:21 So, Jan, if somebody had some other questions or they were just interested in retaining your services, where would they find you? What’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Jan Barefoot: 36:31 Well, our number is very easy to remember. It’s 704-377-1000. And then we also, of course, have a website, www.barefootpi.com. Those are the two best ways to reach us.
Leigh Sellers: 36:45 Well, we thank you for coming so much.
Jan Barefoot: 36:47 Thanks for having me.
Leigh Sellers: 36:48 And sharing your information with us. Because I know that it’s a nerve-wracking situation and subject for people and they’re often a little intimidated about it.
Jan Barefoot: 36:57 Yes, it is. But thank you for having me.
Leigh Sellers: 36:59 Thanks. So there you have it. Another neighborhood of Splitsville explored. There’s still so much to learn here. So I hope you’ll tune in to the next episode. While Splitsville is not a fun place to be, thankfully it is full of helpful people, valuable resources and sound advice if you know where to look. See you next time.
Speaker 1: 37:23 The insights and views presented in Welcome to Splitsville are for general information purposes only. And should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning into this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey, contact Leigh Sellers and her team at touchstonefamilylaw.com.[/spp-transcript]