Private Investigator article

Private Investigator
Investigating cohabitation & sick leave

Investigating cohabitation and sick leave

Investigating cohabitation and sick leave

The benefits of having your cake and eating it are all too well known:

  • Ex-wives who conceal the facts of a new relationship continue to receive maintenance payments from their ex-husbands.
  • DWP benefit claimants get more if they are single than they would as a cohabiting couple.
  • Fraudulent sick-leave allows extra time for play and even moonlighting.

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:

  • How much evidence is required?
  • What is acceptable evidence?

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:

  • The parties routinely live together in the same household.
  • There is stability in the relationship. They share daily tasks, routines and responsibilities, especially the care and support of (the other’s) child or children.
  • There is evidence in support of stability and permanence in the relationship: a general sharing.
  • The financial affairs are effectively joint and in themselves reflect a continuing and stable relationship.
  • There is evidence in support of a sexual relationship.
  • There is a public acknowledgement of the two people as a couple. In the opinion of a “reasonable person with normal perceptions” (external to the household, over the passage of significant time), the couple are in fact living together. Such evidence might arise from neighbours.

Sick leave

Long-term sick leave is increasingly common with high consequent commercial significance.

  • Cost of sick pay.
  • Cost of overtime for other staff / loss of production.
  • Staff resentment where other staff know the sick leave is not genuine.

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

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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