May I Record My Spouse Without Their Knowledge?
Published to: 000114, 000116, A Small Town Lawyer's Perspective, Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer, West Virginia Lawyer - Tips and Techniques
on June 26, 2010 6:12 pm
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The answer to the question above is “NO, NO, NO!!”
It is usually morally reprehensible, and may be illegal. Have I ever seen a person gain an advantage by doing so? Occasionally, but most of the time it backfires.
I have used such recordings many times to prove the other side was manipulative, controlling, and abusive. Rarely, the client will bring me something helpful, such as a recent one where the wife’s boyfriend called to advise that he had been “high on crank” the entire time that he spent with his wife and son. That recording went to WV Child Protective Services and the police.
It is not illegal in WV to record a call to which you are a party. In Md., it is a felony, as Linda Tripp learned when she recorded her conversations with Monica Lewinsky!
In WV, it is illegal to record third party conversations, as two well known politicians learned when they recorded their philandering spouses. Both had to answer to criminal charges.
Recording can be a routine, valuable tool, in cases where my client is complaining about rude and abusive language from the estranged spouse. Right now we have a technical problem with people having a land line, a cell, or perhaps a Trac Phone, and their children having phones. But, assuming you can figure how to have a recording device for most of your conversations with your spouse, or opponent, simply announce that to improve civility and limit profanity, you are recording the conversations. EVERY conversation must be punctuated with “Of, course, I am recording this.”
At worst, the person hangs up and you are spared the abuse. Better, they stay on the phone and continue to spew abuse. These recordings will not make you look like a sneak, but save the whole recording, so you cannot be accused of deleting your own bad language.
But, BEST, is when the parents settle down and actually communicate. This is the solution the Court prefers. I enjoyed the client who said, “But if I tell him, he won’t say those things!” My reply, “Good ! ”.
Then there was the client who proudly brought me his recording……………of himself, screaming obscenities and “Shuuuuut Uuuuuup! Shuuuuut Uuuuuuup! Shuuuuuut Uuuuuuuup!!” into the phone and hanging up on her. That was a very helpful tool to help me assess the problem, but it certainly never made its way into the courtroom. I am surprised the other side did not subpoena it.
So, record your converations but always be sure the other party knows you are doing so.
This post was written by Burton Hunter