Most of his clients, like Mary, whose name is changed to protect her identity, use the tactic to confirm what they already know, to confirm "that they're not crazy."
"When somebody calls me, it's almost like a Playbill, there's a whole cast of characters," says Palace. "They say 'I just want to know if I'm crazy.' The investigation reinforces what they already know."
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The pervasiveness of text messaging, email, the six degrees of separation afforded by social networks like Facebook and MySpace, hard-drive tracking, and the ease with which video networks like YouTube enable exes to badmouth each other to the Internet-surfing public at large, make breakups more loaded than ever and make grounds for divorce all the more accessible.
Take the scorched earth strategy of 52-year-old Patricia Walsh-Smith, a playwright and former actress who is the estranged wife of Philip Smith, president of the Shubert Theater organization. Engaged in a nasty, high-stakes divorce case, this spring she posted several videos on YouTube where she revealed that Smith, 25 years her senior, wouldn't have sex with her claiming problems with high blood pressure. The shocker: She tells the web-viewing public that she discovered a stash of Viagra, condoms, and porn magazines in the couple's apartment. The videos racked up nearly 200,000 views.
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Patricia Walsh-Smith's video stylings apparently had no impact on the outcome of her divorce case. On July 21, a judge ruled that she has just 30 days to vacate the Park Ave. apartment she once shared with her estranged husband Smith. The judge also ruled that she'd have to settle for the $750,000 she agreed to in the prenup. The judge said she inflicted "cruel and inhuman" treatment on Smith by taking her case to the Internet.
All supermodel Christie Brinkley needed in her recent divorce case was an open court room, along with well-documented evidence of ex-husband Peter Cook's Internet porn habit. While she employed old-fashioned offline gumshoes to tail Cook, the case settled before the investigators' reports came to light.