Are Secretly Recorded Conversations Admissible During a Divorce in California?

Leading up to a divorce, your spouse may say or do things you believe will be relevant during your case. You might think that recording conversations between you and your spouse without his or her knowledge is the best way to support your case, such as taped evidence of domestic violence, adultery or hidden assets. However, recording someone without that person’s permission can lead to serious legal repercussions in California. In most cases, it will not be admissible as evidence during a divorce case, either.

Can You Use Secret Recordings in Court?

In general, the courts in California rule illegally obtained recordings inadmissible as evidence in court proceedings. This means the party with the recordings will be unable to use them during a divorce case unless a judge gives him or her special permission. This is typically only the case if the recordings are considered to involve a child’s welfare.

If you have a high-quality recording of an entire conversation with your child that proves child abuse or neglect, for example, a judge may consider accepting this as evidence during your divorce. Pieces of a conversation taken out of context, on the other hand, may not be ruled as admissible evidence.

Recording your partner, your child, an attorney or another party, therefore, most likely will not give you evidence to use during your divorce case. In fact, a judge may view secret recordings in a negative light, meaning it could hurt rather than help your case. Furthermore, secretly recording someone could get you into serious legal trouble in California.



What Are the Penalties for Illegally Recording Someone?


Every state has unique laws regarding recording someone without his or her permission. According to California Penal Code 632, it is against the law to intentionally record a confidential conversation without the parties involved being aware. The penalties for illegally recording someone without his or her knowledge or permission in California include:

  • A fine of up to $2,500
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (per violation) for a second offense
  • Imprisonment in a county jail or state prison for up to one year
  • Restitution owed to a victim of $3,000 or three times the amount of actual damages caused by the recording

These rules apply to both video and audio recordings. The odds of a divorce court allowing you to use secret recordings as evidence are slim. It is not worth the risk of facing criminal charges and severe penalties for recording someone without permission. Rather than running the risk of secretly recording a conversation, take other steps to support your divorce case without breaking the law.

What Should I Do Instead of Recording Someone Without Their Consent?

First, realize that California is a no-fault divorce state. This means it is not necessary to prove your reason for wanting a divorce. The courts will grant your divorce without a specific reason. Even if you suspect your partner of adultery or something else that has motivated you to file for divorce, it will not affect your case. You do not need to worry about gathering proof or evidence for your divorce.

To get a divorce in California, you simply need to cite irreconcilable differences as the reason. This is enough for the courts to accept your divorce filing and hear the case. The California family courts will not allow you to use a traditional fault-based grounds for divorce. This means, in general, secret recordings are irrelevant and unnecessary.

If you do wish to gather evidence to use during your divorce case, document things by writing them down. Write down detailed descriptions of conversations with your partner or child. Take screenshots of text messages or emails exchanged. Document financial transactions and make copies of bank statements. Then contact an experienced law firm and work with a divorce attorney in San Diego who will fight for you and provide further assistance building your case.