Women hire private eyes to check on husbands-to-be

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The Independent Online

Wealthy professional women are increasingly using private detectives to check out their would-be husbands before they marry, fearful of the financial consequences of divorce.

Dubbed prenuptial surveillance, the practice originated in the US and has now taken off in the UK. A number of companies offer the service, following "the target" to see how they behave on a night out.

The emergence of this trend comes as a new survey out this week shows that divorce is becoming nastier than ever, with more people going to court as the stakes get higher.

The survey was carried out by Grant Thornton, the accountancy and wealth protection consultancy and looked at more than 4,000 couples across the UK. It revealed how deception and spying are significant factors in many divorce cases.

Investigator Jon Riding, from Nottingham-based Riding & Sons, said: "It is usually affluent ladies marrying guys who earn less than them. We are taking on a new case every week or so and 90 per cent of men we check out are found to be wanting."

One of the partners in nearly 20 per cent of couples in the survey had used a private investigator. Although men were as likely to use them as women, 86 per cent of divorces were brought against men because of adultery.

Career woman Hannah Price hired a private detective to check on her ex-boyfriend when she suspected him of cheating. The 34-year-old, from Cambridgeshire, feared that he was going out with her because she was earning much more than him.

"It was difficult to find out that he was being unfaithful but not altogether shocking. I just needed confirmation," she said.

During 2005, 16 per cent of UK couples hid financial assets from their spouse while divorcing them, with men accounting for 87 per cent of such deceptions.

Despite such efforts, family fortunes are being split down the middle more than ever before, with 63 per cent of divorces in 2005 resulting in a 50/50 split. However, reports of generous divorce settlements have encouraged some people to deliberately provoke divorce proceedings in England and Wales.

Suzanne Kingston, a partner at legal firm Dawsons, said: "If there is a choice of jurisdiction, the low-earning spouse may try to issue proceedings here to take advantage of that. As a consequence, we have seen a rise in prenuptial agreements."