New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations conducted by a New Jersey Private Investigator; how should the Cohabitation Investigation “generally proceed”? PART 2.
** The author Bob Cowan a New Jersey Private Investigator as well as an expert in New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations, Bob is the former Chief of the 800 Officer Jersey City Police Department; Jersey City is the second largest municipality in New Jersey and is separated from New York City by the Hudson River. Bob is a thirty-five-year veteran of the Jersey City Police Department and has been involved in a voluminous amount of investigations. In his time as the Chief of Police Bob Coordinated and assisted in numerous investigations with agencies such as; Federal bureau of Investigations, United States Attorney General’s Office, Drug Enforcement Agency, United States Marshalls Service, New Jersey State Attorney General’s Office, Hudson County Prosecutors Office as well many contiguous police agencies.
In Part 1. Of this article I discussed several aspects of New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations with respect to achieving the goal of achieving a prima facie case to assist your attorney in either eliminating or at least reducing your alimony obligations.
a. the importance of a client seeking a New Jersey Private Investigator in order to assess and perform a New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation
b. the importance of the existence of Subject Vehicles pertaining to New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations, also
c. the recommended length of an New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation as well as the importance of removing (the best you can) any randomness the cohabitation investigations, so that opposing counsel does not attempt to undermine the credibility of the private investigator’s cohabitation investigation.
In New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations the client often has very little information on the ex-spouse he or she is paying alimony to
At the time a client contacts a New Jersey Private Investigator to discuss his/her options in retaining a private investigator to conduct New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations to determine if the payee of alimony is improperly receiving this alimony the client will not have a whole lot of information available to provide in regard to the ex-spouse’s current living arrangements or in fact other pertaining to the life of the alimony recipient.
Often the client may just be able to provide the New Jersey Private Investigator with bits and pieces of information that the client may have been able to obtain from children, former friends, neighbors. Or maybe even some other family members will have provided information to the client. At times this information will be given inadvertently. At other times the information will be provided purposely by a person who may have any number of reasons for giving up the information from “getting even” or perhaps just believing it is wrong for the recipient of alimony to improperly receive alimony while cohabiting with another.
This lack of information as I had cited in Part 1. of this article is to be expected. This is so in instances when there is a significant amount of time that has lapsed since the divorce and order of Alimony by a New Jersey Court had issued. And, the time client begins to suspect that the former spouse is cohabiting with another and improperly whilefraudulently receiving alimony.
In any event, I have had clients and potential clients who were in the position of not even being able to obtain a description vehicle that would be in play in the New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations inception. Clients often could not provide the identity of the boyfriend or girlfriend of the ex-spouse who is suspected of cohabiting. Obviously, the more information a client has to provide to the private investigator the better it is for the success of the New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations in terms of both costs and the ease of beginning the field investigation. However, when there is a lack of information it will be the job of the New Jersey Private Investigator to perform a preliminary investigation in order to obtain necessary pieces of information; Preliminary New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations will often include background searches. Background Investigations will most often be performed at the office of the private investigator retained to conduct New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations. New Jersey Private Investigators equipped with the best background research resources can often obtain voluminous amounts of very important evidence including evidence obtained from social media postings.
Importance of Vehicle Information to New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations
As cited in in Part 1. Of this article I cannot stress enough the importance of the identification of vehicles involved in the conducting of New Jersey Cohabitation investigations. I have often been contacted by clients regarding infidelity investigations who request that I run ownership registration checks on vehicles they suspect their significant other may be having an affair with; the only answer I can provide is that under New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicle’s Rules and regulations restricts a New Jersey Private Investigator from securing registration information for these types of purposes (infidelity). However, there should be absolutely no problem at all for a New Jersey Private Investigator to obtain registration information in a New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation or a New Jersey Child Custody Investigation, for your convenience I have provided a link to the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles “CAIR” program which governs the use of the release of New Jersey Driver and Registration Information.
As stated previously, the importance of being able to identify vehicles of the participants in a New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation cannot be quantified, but as you can see a New Jersey Private Investigator will be able to obtain vehicle identification through several different approaches, i.e. 1. a background investigation**of the target of the cohabitation investigation, 2. a background investigation** of the person suspected of cohabiting with the target of the cohabitation investigation, and 3. Surveillance of the targets home or the home of the cohabiter.
**often a background investigation will produce and link to a person the make and model of a vehicle (will not provide the tag number) which will then provide the New Jersey Private Investigator with invaluable information in order to make an identification of the Subject Vehicle; for instance if your investigation takes you to a multi-unit condominium complex with many vehicles the New Jersey Private Investigator will be able to focus in on which vehicle could be part of his investigation. The private investigator can then run the plate or plates of the vehicles which match the description of the vehicle identified in the background investigation conducted by the private investigator; this is called ‘investigation minimization” whereas the New Jersey Private Investigator will not have to run every license plate on the condominium property but only those plates that he or she has a reasonable basis to believe may be involved in the New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation.
Minimization, in essence, is the legal term for the constraints placed upon the government’s ability to retain non-relevant private information collected legally. Here is the technical definition of “minimization,” as supplied by 50 U.S.C. 1806 (A):
Why are the identification of vehicles so important in a New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation?
As I discussed in Part 1. Of this article as soon as a New Jersey Private Investigator receives an initial phone call regarding a New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation it is important the New Jersey Private Investigator have a very good understanding of the New Jersey Cohabitation and Alimony Provisions currently in place; most specifically the September 2014 revisions in the New Jersey Alimony legislation which was signed into law by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; it is most helpful when the client has at least a rudimentary understanding of the changes that were made to the New Jersey Laws Alimony and Cohabitation laws with this revision; for your convenience I have included a link that will bring you to the complete text of the 2014 Alimony Legislation:
What follows is an excerpt from the 2014 New Jersey Alimony Revision legislature which delineates the elements that are needed in order to arrive at a Prima Facie Case of Cohabitation. The gathering of evidence to support a prima facie case of cohabitation*** is the main goal that a New Jersey Private Investigator should be striving for during the cohabitation investigation; once you achieve this prima facie case of cohabitation and your attorney is successful in having the court order a plenary hearing you will also be provided with discovery prior to the plenary hearing which could be the “holy grail” in terms of uncovering additional evidence. In any event, after you review the elements needed to achieve this prima facie case of cohabitation I will then explain how the existence of vehicle and the evidence these vehicles can provide will actually link to many of the elements.
** A prima facie case is the establishment of a legally required rebuttable presumption. A prima facie case is a cause of action or defense that is sufficiently established by a party’s evidence to justify a verdict in his or her favor, provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party.
Under the 2014 statute, the court may suspend or terminate alimony if a payee cohabitates with another person. Pursuant to the law, cohabitation involves a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union but does not necessarily maintain a single common household.
When assessing whether cohabitation is occurring, the court shall consider the following:
(1) Intertwined finances such as joint bank accounts and other joint holdings or liabilities;
(2) Sharing or joint responsibility for living expenses;
(3) Recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle;
(4) Living together, the frequency of contact, the duration of the relationship, and other indicia of a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship;
(5) Sharing household chores;
(6) Whether the recipient of alimony has received an enforceable promise of support from another person within the meaning of subsection h. of R.S.25:1-5 (“palimony”); and
(7) All other relevant evidence.
In evaluating whether cohabitation is occurring and whether alimony should be suspended or terminated, the court shall also consider the length of the relationship. A court may not find an absence of cohabitation solely on grounds that the couple does not live together on a full-time basis.
How does a vehicle in a New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation link to the elements while providing invaluable evidence?
Okay, let’s first take a look at element (1) which provides that “intertwined finances such as joint bank accounts and other joint holdings or liabilities. It is possible under certain circumstances that you could find one or both of the vehicles involved in the Cohabitation Investigation are owned jointly by the target of the investigation and/or the suspected cohabiter. It is also possible during the preliminary background investigation conducted by the New Jersey Private Investigator in the cohabitation case, evidence will be found of other joint holdings and/or liabilities. I have seen cell phones, loans, homes that were bought together by the cohabiting couple, it is shocking the chances that some people will take while they continue to fraudulently collect alimony from a former spouse.
Let’s go to the second element, (2) The sharing or joint responsibility for living expenses. If there is only one vehicle involved and either the target of the New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation or the suspected cohabiter does not own a vehicle an investigation might reveal that the target or subject actually share a vehicle, despite who actually owns the vehicle, this would be good evidence to secure.
I will move on to the third element, (3) Recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle. It is always possible the cohabitation investigation could find that that perhaps the target of the investigation drives the cohabiter’s family to destinations such as doctors’ appointments, food shopping, schools or other places; maybe the cohabiter does this transportation for family members of the target of the cohabitation investigation. If investigation determined facts such as these, I am certain this would be compelling evidence for the New Jersey Court of the family of the other having recognized the target and cohabiter as a couple.
Next, we will examine element 4, in the 2014 revised alimony statute, (4) Living together, the frequency of contact, the duration of the relationship, and other indicia of a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship. In Part 1. I talked extensively of how important it is to link the vehicles to the both parties being investigated during a New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation. Part of any cohabitation investigation that involves vehicles a New Jersey Private Investigator will use those vehicles presence at the homes of the target and subject of the investigation as an indication of each parties’ presence at a particular place. For instance, the New Jersey Private Investigator photographs the cohabiter’s vehicle at the home of the client’s ex-spouse at 11:00 pm; the private investigator returns at 5:00 am on the following morning and again photographs the cohabiter’s vehicle still at the ex-spouse’s home. A New Jersey Family Court will more than likely (I cannot speak for the Court) find that these facts represent a “preponderance of the evidence that the couple spent the night together; string enough of these instances together and you can come in with some strong evidence of that the couple actually live together
In addition, during surveillance activities it may be possible to document the couple leaving the home together in one vehicle and going to such places as restaurants, gyms, doctor appointments, this is not an exclusive list. Often, during a surveillance where you are able to document the presence of the vehicles outside a one of these establishments and the couple exiting or entering the vehicle, this should be more than enough evidence to present to the Court, it will not be necessary to actually go into the restaurant, gym or other location to observe what the couple are doing; in most instances what the couple are involved in can be inferred from the establishment they enter. The New Jersey Private Investigator can continue surveillance until the couple leave the establishment and quite possibly head “home”; compelling evidence would be to document the couple let’s say leaving a gym, stopping at a store to pick up groceries and heading “home” and retiring for the night. Compelling evidence such as described is possible to obtain just by the monitoring of the vehicle and taking of photographs from a distance, which of course protects the integrity of the Cohabitation Investigation.
I will now take a look at element 5. In the 2014 New Jersey Alimony Revision legislation. (5) Sharing household chores. There are so many ways the presence of vehicles either the ex-spouse’s vehicle or the cohabiter’s car can play into this element while providing evidence toward proving cohabitation, many of these factors I have already addressed but let’s go over some different scenarios. Perhaps the cohabiter will load up his or her pickup truck with trash at the targets home for a trip to the town dump or go grocery shopping. Maybe investigation will uncover the cohabiter or the ex-spouse providing transportation for one another’s children to activities and such or perhaps investigation reveals them leaving the home as a family to attend children’s sports activities. The list is endless on the type of evidence you can uncover in order to come in with super strong evidence with respect to this element when you are able to link vehicles to the “players” in the New Jersey Cohabitation Investigation.
Finally, under the 2014 revision to the New Jersey Alimony Laws the Court may not find an absence of cohabitation solely on grounds that the couple does not live together on a full-time basis. This is an extremely important change in the New Jersey Alimony Laws because it takes out the risk that the couple will essentially maintain a separate apartment/home or whatever in order to maintain a façade that they are actually living apart. In my opinion this is something that would be done when there is a high amount of alimony being paid to the recipient. As I discussed in Part 1. Of this article, when there are two homes in play, both of the homes need to be considered and monitored to some extent until the facts obtained in the Cohabitation Investigation dictate otherwise. And, when either one or both of the homes contain a garage or worse yet more than one garage the Cohabitation Investigation can become complicated and at times exponentially more expensive to conduct.
You would be shocked at some of the really stupid things I found persons who I believed were fraudulently receiving alimony would do, which of course risked exposure and thus loss of their ill-gotten gains, there is a saying for that: “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”.
In Part 3. I will discuss a little bit more about vehicles and the importance of these vehicles to New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations as well as discussing other elements of New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations.
About the author: Bob Cowan is the owner of Cowan Investigations a full service New Jersey Private Investigations Firm, Bob is the former Chief of the Jersey City Police Department and has 35 years-experience as a police officer in New Jersey’s second largest municipality.
If you wish to speak with me regarding this article, or if you need a consultation regarding it’s contents please do not hesitate to call me at 732-837-8444, seven days a week 8:00am to 8:00pm.