Are Recorded Conversations Legal in Divorce Court?

by Teo Spengler
Even legally obtained recordings may not be admissible in civil cases.

Even legally obtained recordings may not be admissible in civil cases.

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"He said, she said" can typify arguments between embattled spouses, where each accuses the other of communications the other denies. It may seem that recording conversations would resolve divorce issues quickly, but this is not always true. Recordings of private conversations, even when legally made, are not admissible evidence in civil courts in all states.

Legality of Recording

The recording of private conversations is regulated by most states. Before you rush out to record a conversation with your spouse, check your state's laws about the legality of doing so. Most states apply the "one-party" consent rule, making the recording legal if at least one party consents. A minority of states require that all parties consent to a recording before a conversation can legally be recorded.

Admissibility of Recording

Even if you record a private conversation legally, you may not be able to introduce it in divorce court. Laws about the admissibility of audio recordings vary among the states. For example, Wisconsin statutes declare most such evidence totally inadmissible in civil cases, with only very limited exceptions. In New York, however, legally obtained audio recordings can be admissible if a proper showing is made: that is, the courts require proof that the recording is genuine and that nobody has tampered with it.