Private Investigator Jim Mesis Discusses Social Media & Divorce

Jimmie MesisTo explain more about the uses and abuses of social media in divorce proceedings, we spoke with well-known Private Investigator Jimmie Mesis, Publisher of PI Magazine. Here’s what he offered about the practices used by professional investigators uncovering facts in social media research.

How does social media play into the divorce discovery process?

Jimmie: We have found that people in general are becoming their own detectives and they’re doing their own social media searching, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, anything that they can get their hands on, anything that would have their spouse’s name on it.  So, as far as if you’re going through a divorce, what should you be concerned about, my recommendation would be you should be concerned about every single thing that you’ve ever put on the internet because somewhere along the way it’s there and someone might be able to find it.

In Facebook many people can have things removed from … click to read more

During a divorce, is Facebook something the average person can research effectively?

Jimmie: The average layperson is very astute, and if they already have a Facebook account and they’re putting status updates on their Facebook they also know how to search Facebook, and they also know how to check timelines, and they also know how to check photographs of people’s friends and who’s connected to who, which is another thing.  A spouse can find that there’s a friend listed, they have a Facebook friend, and then the spouse can then click on the Facebook friend’s name and then find out who that person is and find out who all their friends are, … click to read more

Are you doing this kind of social media discovery often in divorce cases?

Jimmie: We certainly do social media searches.  We have certain software that we have access to and investigative abilities to search certain things, what we call the deep web, and we know how to get into certain social media websites to where the average person might not be as astute in how to do it, but I’ve got to be honest with you, by the time we get called from a law firm the client will have already done quite a bit of their own homework.

So, we’d only be looking to see if they missed something or go into … click to read more

In divorce discovery is one social media platform more resourceful than another?

Jimmie: Well, in the deep web, the hidden web, you know Facebook is by far the most successful social media outlet out there.  That one together with Pinterest and Instagram, but Facebook has been taken over by adults.  At one time it was younger people and then adults basically took it over.  Young people are now basically using more Instagram more than anything else.  And a lot of women are more inclined to use Pinterest, putting on pictures, or pinning pictures on their account for Pinterest.  So, Facebook, again, becomes the most popular for the cheating spouse background check.

What… click to read more

What information can a private investigator find that the average person cannot typically access about their spouse?

Jimmie: Well, licensed professional investigators have access to proprietary databases that are not available to the general public.  So, technically, if I’m doing a background search on a particular spouse and I have their full name, and if it’s a spouse I’m gonna have their full name, date of birth, social, given to me by the client spouse, I can go into several aggregated databases, proprietary databases and I can do a search, and I may end up coming up with, let’s say for example, e-mail addresses that the client might never have known of.  These are now e-mail addresses … click to read more

How long can a private investigation take during a divorce discovery process?

Jimmie: You know, the quality of an investigation is based on two factors: time and money, and they both go hand in hand.  The more time I’m allowed to do a search, the more expensive it’s gonna be, the more information I’m gonna get.  If I have a limited client budget, that means that my time is going to be limited, it means that the information that we’re going to be able to acquire is going to be limited.  So, time determines the success of any investigation.… click to read more

If a divorce proceeding goes in front of a judge, is the social media evidence critical?

Jimmie: Yes, a lot of cases do go in front of a judge, but if there is some damaging evidence that was acquired during a Facebook search, that’s something that one of the spouses may not want to have disclosed or become public, especially in front of a hearing officer, a mediator, or a judge.  So, it depends.  It’s leverage.

I mean, it depends on whether, you know, the husband, the cheating husband ended up having a separate Facebook account with a fictitious name and, you know, he was talking about all his escapades and pictures of him with all … click to read more

Is any one piece of social media evidence more damaging and considered more valuable?

Jimmie: Facebook.  Yes, dates, locations, who they were with, the timeline.  It’s just very detailed. The people that use Facebook are leaving a breadcrumb trail of everything they’ve done, you know?  What restaurant they went to, who they were with, what day of the week they did something, where they were.  You know, there’s so much information.  Any time they put a picture on there, there’s also metadata in that picture that shows the date, time, and exact location where that picture was taken, and that can be used as evidence later on.… click to read more

How successful is deleting information from your Facebook account right before a divorce?

You could delete anything you want, but a good attorney can always subpoena records from Facebook directly. A spouse that has suspicions, before they even make those suspicions known to the guilty spouse, has already been going onto Facebook doing screen shots and capturing evidence of what they’ve seen on the Facebook page.

So, it’s often too late?

Jimmie: Yes, too late.  It’s often too late.  I mean, with regards to cheating spouses, which by the way statistically we have found that women now are cheating more often then men.  You know, men just don’t think that their wives are … click to read more

What about emails as evidence? Can you retrieve emails that have already been deleted from an account?

On a home computer there’s no such thing as deleted.  It’s there someplace.  You just need somebody to come in to be able to find where it is.  A computer forensics person can come in and they’re normally charging anywhere between $250 and $450 an hour and they’ll take the hard drive, they’ll make a full copy of the hard drive, and they’ll take it back to the lab, and they’ll go through all of the sectors, and especially those that have been the deleted sectors, and they’ll be able to find all hidden chat room conversations, instant messaging, e-mails.  … click to read more

Is investigating social media an important part of divorce proceedings?

Jimmie: It’s probably just as important as anything else we might do on a case.  It’s one element of many elements that we have to do.  Surveillance is usually the big one.  We want to watch a spouse, but we go into sort of social media to find out what they’re into, where they go, where they hang out, because that gives us a lead as to where we might find them when we can’t find the spouse.  You know, where are they hiding, where are they disappearing to?

Do you need to have the logins?

Jimmie: It’s helpful, but … click to read more

With your wealth of investigation experience, what advice would you give to either party?

Jimmie:  You know, as a private investigator for over 35 years, my only recommendation to people is if you’re going to cheat, number one you’re going to get caught, and if you’re going to cheat you don’t put what you’re doing on Facebook or in social media because somebody’s going to see it, somebody’s going to read it, and then somebody’s going to give it to your spouse.  And if you think your spouse is cheating, 95% of the time they are.  So, it just becomes a matter of gathering the evidence, confirmation of your suspicions to prove that they … click to read more