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How lawyers use skip tracing in Australia

Reading time: 7 minutes

Skip tracing means finding a missing person or verifying their details, usually for legal or financial reasons. Lawyers may use skip tracing to locate people.

They may verify information such as:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Employment
  • Relationship status
  • Property ownership and more.

They may do this for any number of legal reasons like process serving, court cases, wills or other situations.

Sometimes the person being located does not want to be found. This means special techniques have to be employed to find them. The person or business being traced could be actively hiding, or have intentionally made it difficult for anyone to track them down.

Why lawyers use skip tracing to find people for court cases

There are a variety of reasons lawyers might use skip tracing to find people with regards to court cases. These tend to be broken down into two main categories.

To correctly locate defendants for court cases

Business partners

Often, people being sued for fraud or misconduct will flee to try to get away with it. The same goes for debtors – people who owe other people, or companies, money. Lawyers can use skip tracing to track them down so they can be held accountable in court. Occasionally, skip tracers can be utilised where other agencies have failed. This was true in the case of Ryan Mullen, an FBI’s Most Wanted criminal who stole more than $2 million from federal government agencies.

Skip tracing to find business partners
Lawyers use skip tracing to locate fleeing business partners and debtors.

Fake tradesmen

These are dodgy tradesmen who offer to do maintenance work on your home or office then disappear with your money. They leave unfinished or substandard work, if they even bother to start the work at all. Tradies who go from suburb to suburb scamming people with shoddy maintenance work can be hard to track down. They’re professional con men who know how to avoid being caught, and this is why lawyers can use skip tracing to find them.

Shoddy builders

Another reason lawyers might use skip tracing would be to verify details of builders who do substandard work but refuse to remedy it. These are different to the fake tradesmen as they aren’t con men, but rather just not good at they work they purport to specialise in. They may also be unlicensed and ask for cash up front. After the job is finished, they may have disappeared and need to be located to be brought to justice. Or they just may refuse to fix the problem.


Lawyers may also use skip tracing to verify details of retailers including online retailers and auction sellers who may be hard to locate, in warranty and fraud cases. Some online retailers can be very difficult to track down, especially if they are in a different country to the people looking for their information.

To locate witnesses for court cases

These aren’t the people that are in the wrong in a court case, but rather someone who may know something or be able to give evidence to support the case.

Eyewitness testimony

Perhaps they simply didn’t give their details at the time of an incident. For example, they witnessed a hit and run. Now they are needed to provide eyewitness testimony. Lawyers may use skip tracing to track them down so that they can give their evidence about what happened.


Sometimes, people involved in court cases have simply slipped through the cracks due to time passing. This is another time where lawyers may use skip tracers. It could be that since the incident occurred, they moved house or similar and now cannot be contacted. This isn’t necessarily intentional, but it could have slipped their mind.

Intentional hiding

In some rare cases people go into hiding because they are afraid of the defendant in a criminal case. They could fear for their life and therefore not want to testify in a court case. On the other hand, perhaps they are afraid of being found if they are guilty of a crime themselves. This is likely a matter for the police, but lawyers may use skip tracing to gather information to present to the police.

Lawyers use skip tracing to find beneficiaries for wills

Frequently, when someone dies, there are complications with executing their estate. Often, someone has been named as a beneficiary of the will but the executor may not have contact details for them. It then becomes a matter of having to track them down to let them know that they have inherited something.

Solicitors use skip tracing to locate beneficiaries for wills
Skip tracing can help track down missing beneficiaries for wills.

It could even be the case that this is the first time they’re hearing about the death. This is a delicate situation and skip tracers need to ensure that they are being discreet and professional at all times.

Estranged relatives

Sometimes there may have been a falling out and the deceased lost contact with a child or other beneficiary of their will. It’s then the task of the executor of the will to try to locate this estranged relative or friend. On occasion, they may not even want to be a recipient of the will. Although this doesn’t happen very often, it has been known to happen.

Unknown relative

Sometimes, the individual needing to be located is a child from another relationship who was unknown to the rest of the family. If they were included in the will they need to be found for the estate to be executed correctly.


On occasion, it could be that the lawyers are tasked with locating children given up for adoption who are included in the will. The deceased may have gone on to have another family but still wanted to provide for the child they put up for adoption. This could also involve the rest of the family being unaware of such a person’s existence.

Lawyers use skip tracing to enable process serving

Process serving means officially delivering legal and court documents. Sometimes people can try to avoid being served because they think that it means it will prevent the proceedings from taking place. This is incorrect. However, things run a lot smoother when the individual is physically served the papers. Therefore, lawyers may use skip tracers to find the individual in order to process serve them.


In some cases, one party may not want to get divorced, and may try to avoid receiving the divorce papers. This could be for a number of reasons. Another reason lawyers might need to use skip tracers in the case of divorce is if the person needing to be served has disappeared. They may have run off with someone else, or are just trying to stay hidden from their ex spouse.

Child custody

Another unpleasant situation where a lawyer might utilise the service of a skip tracer is in the case of child custody disputes.


Lawyers may also use skip tracing if they are starting legal proceedings to sue someone. Again, the person being served may be intentionally avoiding being found as they may want to cause delays to the lawsuit.

Experienced process servers know how to use skip tracing to precisely identify the location of the person of interest. Then they discreetly verify the identity of the person from a distance to avoid any misdelivery. Finally they deliver the documents at a place and time that is safe, such as in a public location like shopping center.

Different kinds of legal documents are served in different ways so you need an experienced skip tracer and process server who knows what they are doing.

Professional considerations for lawyers using skip tracing

Skip tracing is carried out by collecting, analyzing, and verifying information about an individual, and using this information to track down that person. This includes using computer software and the internet to sift through public records as well as manually contacting and questioning individuals to get additional information. This process requires the tracer to be able to access and read through information such as travel records, credit reports, vehicle registration, and any other form of information that can be used to locate a person.

When employing a skip tracer, lawyers need to make sure that they hire someone who is competent and discreet to avoid any problems arising.

Professional conduct of skip tracers
Law firms should ensure their skip tracers will act with discretion, professionalism and legality.

Missing due dates and court dates

If the skip tracer a lawyer hires isn’t efficient, too much time may pass between when they are hired and when the ‘skip’ is located. This could lead to missing pertinent dates in the court cases they were hired to assist with. If defendants cannot be found in time, it could end up with the entire case falling apart.

Incorrect information and misdentification

Lawyers using skip tracers need to be sure of their capacity to accurately sift through the information they collect. The likelihood is that they will be given a lot of inaccurate information and they will need to be able to identify what is correct and worth following up on, and what is useless and needs to be discarded. Going on a wild goose chase would be a waste of everyone’s time. On the flip side, they need to be able to ensure that they don’t disregard anything that could end up being useful. The smallest detail could ultimately lead to tracing the person in question.

Trespassing or privacy violations

It’s important to make sure that the skip tracers abide by federal, state and local laws, such as trespass laws and privacy laws, as they collect evidence and compose reports. If they don’t, it can cause a lot of legal issues down the line.

Unprofessional conduct reflecting poorly on the law firm

It’s important for lawyers to ensure that they hire a reliable skip tracer because otherwise it could end up being detrimental to the firm. Skip tracers are readily available to find online. Good quality skip tracers require a little more digging to find. It’s imperative that lawyers don’t hire the first skip tracers they find. When seeking someone to take on this job, look for an established operator. Someone who has an excellent reputation that has been built up over many years.

Skip tracing is legal and ethical, but should be carried out by experienced agents. They need to understand the legal and privacy issues involved. It is not something that should be attempted by amateurs. Any lawyer hiring a skip tracer should ensure that they are experienced and know what they are doing.

Call Melbourne Investigations to begin your skip tracing

The skip tracing specialists at Melbourne Investigations work regularly with lawyers. We track down people who are difficult to find, whether that be by intentional design or by accident.

Established in 2010, we have an outstanding record of uncovering data and locating people who have made an effort to stay under the radar. Our skip tracing services include a wide variety of clever techniques. We don’t just complete a quick Google search and give up.

Out team has years of experience and the knowledge to be able to deploy our techniques in a thorough and effective way.  This enables us to deliver results more quickly.

We aim to prove ourselves to be the most reliable and trustworthy skip tracers in the business.

If you’re a lawyer looking to track someone down, get in touch today. You’ll discover a highly professional approach and accurate results.

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