Everyone is on their best behavior in front of a judge. For many people in the process of a divorce, it can be frustrating to see a spouse act civilly in court but turn nasty in private. To show the judge the way your spouse acts in private, can you record your conversations?

While recorded conversations may be powerful evidence of a person’s true character, recording your spouse without his or her consent can cause more trouble than it is worth. Washington State law prohibits any person from recording a private conversation without the consent of the other person.

Private conversations are those that a person does not reasonably expect to be overheard. For example, a telephone call between two people is private—even a telephone conference among 12 people may still be considered private. A conversation between two or more people at the bar of a crowded restaurant or other public location is probably not private.

If a private conversation is recorded without consent, the person doing the recording can face criminal charges. Violating Washington’s recording law is a gross misdemeanor, and is punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $5,000. Also, the person recording the conversation may be liable for civil damages if the recorded conversation causes the other person harm.

There are three exceptions to this law. First, a person can be recorded without their consent during emergency situations, as in recorded calls to 9-1-1. Second, a person can record anonymous or repeated harassing phone calls even if he or she is unsure of who is behind the calls. Finally, a person can secretly record threats of bodily harm, extortion, or blackmail.

The last exception may help people involved in a volatile divorce or child custody dispute. If your spouse or former partner threatens you or your children with harm, you may be able to record these threats without fear of criminal charges. However, it is not a good idea to start recording all conversations just in case threats are made.

If you are unsure of whether or not you should record your former partner, speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Opening yourself to criminal liability is never a good idea, and an experienced family law attorney can help you come up with ways to inform the judge about your ex’s true character without breaking the law.

In Washington State, the attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law are here to help you resolve all of your family law issues and concerns. To schedule your appointment and learn more about your options, contact us today by calling 360-926-9112.