As a divorce lawyer, I work with a lot of women who are stepping into a new found freedom. As soon as they are free of family court drama, they are eager to start their lives as single, independent women. Some are ready to start dating again while others are already looking at a new long-term relationship. I give every single one of them a crucial piece of advice: Background check every single person you date.
Did you chuckle at that? It’s okay if you did, because it may sound a bit ridiculous.
Many women hear that and say something like, “maybe some people need to do that, but I’m very careful about who I date.” To these women, I say one thing:
Background check every single person you date.
Here’s the truth, ladies: In today’s day and age, you cannot trust anyone to be completely open and honest with you. You cannot expect that your intuition will tell you all you need to know. And, if you have been caught in a manipulative or abusive relationship once, then you are at risk of being sucked into another one, even if you are super careful. It does not hurt to check your date’s background before giving them your home address to come pick you up. If you don’t find anything, that’s wonderful! If you do, you’ll be so glad you looked.
Here are my top 3 free ways to check someone’s background before going on a date with them.
Checking someone’s history of court action is easy. CaseNet keeps a database of civil and criminal cases filed in the State of Missouri. Follow this link, click on “Litigant Name Search,” and type in their name. It will pull up a list of all the cases involving a person with that name. You’ll be able to see what kind of case it is, when it was filed, and in most cases you can look at the court’s docket to see who their attorney was and how the case was resolved. This is a great way to know if someone has a criminal history or if they have been through messy civil cases.
Be careful, though, because CaseNet is not fool proof. The information you find on there will be very reliable, but you won’t find absolutely everything. Cases that are closed to the public will not pop up on your search, like child abuse/neglect cases in juvenile court or certain orders of protection (aka “restraining orders”). If the person you search has a common name then you may also need to narrow it down by their birthday or where they live. CaseNet is also limited to cases in Missouri, so if your date has lived in any other state, you’ll want to see if that state has a similar database.
The sex offender registry gives you a listing of sex offenders by name or by address. You can even see a map of where registered offenders live. This allows you to check out not just the person you are considering dating, but also the areas you may be going with them. You want to make sure you are going to safe places, especially if you plan to spend the night. To search the registry, follow this link and then follow the prompts.
3. Google/Bing/[Insert Search Engine of Choice Here]
You will be amazed what you can learn about a person on the Internet. Search for their name, maybe throw in the city you live in, and see what you find. You’ll learn things about them (good or bad) that you can’t easily find through any of the more “official” checks, such as appearances in the press, personal websites, social media profiles, etc. This will not just give you background information, but it will give you general information on their character that you can use to lead into your dating relationship.
With the Internet at your fingertips, do not leave your safety to chance. Even if you just pick one of the methods above, be consistent about checking every person you date. While you’re at it, search yourself out on these databases as well and see what you find. And, of course, trust your gut – if someone seems unsafe, follow that intuition and be safe.