A Brief Understanding Of Bugging and Taping Conversations in Divorce Proceeding

When it comes to child custody and divorce issues, each party is affected; more so if a disagreement comes up.  One of the most common questions family law lawyers are asked is if a person is allowed to bug and tape phone conversations. Here’s the thing about the two terms: bugging and taping.  They are not to be used interchangeably. They have two different meanings and are two completely issues.

What Is Bugging or Wiretapping?

Wiretapping or bugging is the process of intercepting, recording and eavesdropping on a person’s phone conversation using an electronic device that’s planted on the line or phone. For private individuals, this is illegal. Law enforcement can only carry out wiretapping when they have a warrant or court order.  Basically, it’s to listen in on the conversation of two unsuspecting individuals.

It’s an invasion of their privacy and an infringement of their rights. If you carry out this task, you open yourself up to legal prosecution and could be sued for damages in a civil claim.  Legal questions are often asked about the recordings because the bug is typically placed without the knowledge of the person being recorded. It could lead to problems of trespass or some other similar infraction.

What Is Taping?

Telephone taping is basically a recording of conversations made on the telephone.  Each state has its own legalities on taping. Some states allow it if one person knows about the taping while, in other states, both parties must know about it. When it comes to federal laws, the stipulations are also different.

12 states demand that every party know that the recording is going on. If you are a resident of a state that allows for one party knowing but your spouse lives in a state that demands both parties know about the recording, you must inform your spouse of the recording.  Still, the best thing you can do for yourself is talk with your attorney about taping before you start the action.

The rules you need to know

If a person tapes conversations without any of the parties knowing, it’s illegal: According to The Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Stored Communications Act, any action to intercept wire/oral or electronic communication is against the law under the Title 1 section. The other section, Title 2 bans any action of gaining unauthorized access to the party's information. Therefore, violation of this federal wire tapping act could result in court ordered injunctions and criminal charges with penalties and fines. There are also damages to your status in your environment, either financially or emotionally.

How many times have you heard a company tell you the phone call may be recorded for training purposes before you even speak to a customer service representative? When you continue the call, it means you know the conversation is being recorded and that you agreed to it.

It can be tempting to record conversations during a contested divorce. However, the legal implications that go along with it can be significant. It’s illegal to record a conversation or bug a person’s phone especially if none of the parties know it’s going on.  It may be legal to tape conversations in some states, but, before you do this, talk with your lawyer about it.  Find out if the action you want to take is illegal in your state.