Investigating cohabitation & sick leave
The benefits of having your cake and eating it are all too well known:
Dr Eddie Bliss of Blayze Ltd reports on investigating cohabitation and sick leave.
For matrimonial maintenance payments, a time period is frequently specified in the Minutes of Consent Order. For example: Post divorce maintenance is to continue for x years, or until the ex-spouse dies, re-marries or cohabits for a period in excess of y months.
Demonstration of post-divorce cohabitation might require observations over long periods. In all cases, the key questions are:
As a legal subject, cohabitation is difficult to define; no consensus is accepted. While it is impossible to draw up a list of definitive criteria for cohabitation, ‘signposts’ derived from case precedence, the authorities and social security publications have accumulated over the years.
In demonstrating cohabitation, no single factor is necessarily conclusive. Moreover, in our experience it is not sufficient to follow a simplistic formula, such as to monitor a household for the (traditional) three nights per week.
Detection of cohabitation must be customised. A review of successful claims for cohabitation has shown that, critically, six factors are commonly cited:
Long-term sick leave is increasingly common with high consequent commercial significance.
For a fit person to get away with a ‘sickie’ is either through being a recluse or by being constantly ‘surveillance aware’; on the look-out for watchers.
Covert Observation is an effective means of identifying cohabitation and false sick leave claims.
Covert Observation operations in these two types of cases need to be intelligence-led, building an intelligence picture from many small observations.
In both cohabitation and sick-leave cases, in order to make systematic, regular and accurate observations over long periods requires professional skill and stealth. It is essential to avoid being noticed by third parties, such as neighbours, who may share information about unusual observations or ‘feelings’ with the person being watched.
Observations made during long-term assignments may involve many observations at a wide variety of times and places. Each observation on its own may appear trivial. But experience has shown that when many such observations are integrated in a large, coherent, systematic format, an intelligence picture emerges.
Blayze exhibits for use in court are typically longitudinal calendar charts in tabular format and colour-coded for clarity. For example: charts might demonstrate the presence of a certain car which itself has been demonstrated to belong to and be used by a male suspected cohabitee.
With attention to detail, such tabular results are sometimes so cogent as to be completely compelling, to the extent that cases are settled out of court.
Due to the simple nature of the observations, cohabitation and sick-leave investigations need not be as labour intensive as you might think. This fact is relevant especially in long-term surveillance when the trade-off between manpower and budget is considered.
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