I have recordings of abusive phone conversations with my husband’s ex, can we used them in court?

A recorded telephone conversation may seem like a good way to present evidence that someone is being verbally abusive, but whether or not you can use such evidence in a court of law depends on the situation as well as where you live.

The Laws for Taped Phone Conversations

According to federal law, recording of conversations is allowed, and they are legally admissible, only if the consent of one party being taped is given, meaning at least one of the two people involved in the conversation knows that the taping is being done. Since you are the one recording, and you are one of the parties in the conversation, you have likely passed this test. If, for example, someone was recording you speaking to someone else without either of your knowledge, that recording would be illegal under this law. The majority of states in the U.S. adhere to this "one party consent" statute and follow the same rule, in which case the abusive phone calls would be admissible in court.

Two Party Consent Recording

In a handful of states, however, the consent of all parties in the conversation is required, or else the recording is considered illegal and at the very least cannot be used as evidence. If you live in a two-party consent state and you record someone without permission, you could be subject to criminal penalties if your actions are considered to be illegal wiretapping.

What if You Live in Different States?

Should someone in a state that allows one-consent recordings call someone in a state that requires two-consent recordings, the stricter of the two laws will generally be applied.

Getting Help

Before you record conversations for the purpose of using them as evidence, or for any other reason, it is imperative that you consult with a lawyer to learn about the laws in your state and to make sure you do not violate any legal privacy rules.