Can You Secretly Record Your Spouse to Win Child Custody?
When spouses separate, it’s an emotionally charged situation. When children are involved, the stakes become much higher. In a custody dispute, people can be tempted to do whatever they feel is necessary to win custody of their child. This often includes trying to make a secret recording of their spouse doing or saying something that is damaging to their case and reputation. You may even have a valid reason for wanting to document something to support your case in court.
In Pennsylvania, you cannot record other people without their consent. Secret records are inadmissible in court. In addition, you may be susceptible to severe consequences. Instead of strengthening your case, you could face years in prison, fines and other penalties.
Overview of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act
Under the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act (18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 5703), it is illegal to make a secret recording of another person. Pennsylvania is one of only 12 states where both parties must consent to be recorded in order for the recording to be admissible in court. Under the Wiretap Act, it is illegal to make audio or visual recordings of another person in situations where they have reasonable expectations of privacy.
Public vs. Private Recordings
If your spouse acts out in a public setting, bystanders may capture the event on their cameras. This is an example of a public recording, and it may be admissible in court. Cameras are practically everywhere in modern society — we surrender our consent for recording every time we leave the house.
Outside of a public setting, an expectation of privacy becomes an entirely different argument. Making a secret recording violates two-party consent and can lead to a third-degree felony conviction.
Violating the Wiretap Act
There are three primary ways that someone can violate the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act. In most situations, a violation will damage your custody case and will likely result in criminal charges. Under 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 5703, it is illegal to:
- Make a secret recording of your spouse
- Show that secret recording to any other person
- Use a secret recording against your spouse in any way
Committing or attempting to commit any of the above is a violation of state law. In today’s world, a visual or audible record is possible on everything from a smartphone to a nanny cam. Any recording at all, made without the other person’s knowledge and consent, could lead to felony charges. If you’re not sure, speak to an attorney.
Potential Penalties for Making a Secret Recording
In the vast majority of criminal cases, ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for breaking the law. All citizens are expected to possess a basic knowledge of state law. As a consequence, the courts will be strict on those found guilty of violations. If you secretly record your spouse in an attempt to win custody of your child, you could be facing:
- Arrest and a costly trial
- Up to seven years in state prison
- Court fines up to $15,000
- Designation as a felon
In Pennsylvania, making a secret recording is a third-degree felony. Designation as a felon is one part of your sentence that continues long after completing any prison term. In Pennsylvania and nationwide, a felony conviction can lead to:
- Loss of voting privileges
- Inability to run for public office
- Loss of second amendment rights
- Difficulty obtaining college financial aid
- Challenges finding employment and housing
Child Custody Attorneys in York, PA
In addition to felony charges, a secret recording can expose you to civil lawsuits with monetary damages. If you’ve been accused of secretly recording your spouse or any party in the State of Pennsylvania, you need a defense attorney with experience responding to those charges. Our firm offers personalized, strategic legal counsel for child custody matters, divorces and more.
If you’re facing a child custody dispute in York or anywhere in PA, you need an attorney experienced in Pennsylvania family law. Beyond risking custody of your child, you could be facing severe civil and criminal penalties if convicted of secretly recording your spouse.
To speak to the MPL Law Firm about your custody case, divorce or another family legal matter, call 717-845-1524 today or schedule a consultation today.
Social Media and Divorce: What You Need to Know
If you’re going through a divorce, using social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other sites can seem like a way to feel better during a difficult time. The ability to vent online, keep loved ones up-to-date about proceedings and find new friends is tempting, but social media and divorce are an uneasy combination. In fact, if you use social media, your divorce can be negatively impacted by your online presence.
What Not to Do
Attorneys routinely turn to social media for divorce evidence, and you can be sure your spouse’s attorney is looking through any sites and accounts you have online for information. There are several key mistakes you’ll want to avoid making:
- Displaying your spending habits. During a divorce, both attorneys will be looking at ways to split assets, and you may even qualify for alimony. You may be accused of having hidden assets or a better income than you represent if you show lavish spending online. Even a simple new purchase, such as a car, can be misconstrued.
- Making aggressive comments. It can be tempting to commiserate with friends and family, but be wary of posting negative comments about your spouse. These can be used by an attorney when determining custody and visitation. Venting your feelings can cause harm to your family and be used against you. Negative comments you make can be interpreted to mean you are aggressive or have undiagnosed mental health issues which can directly impact your ability to see your children. Even joking comments can be misinterpreted, so proceed with caution.
- Providing any evidence of extramarital affairs. Even if you are both dating again, be wary about posting photos of anything that could be used to suggest you had an affair prior to the “official” end of your marriage. You don’t want such claims influencing the division of marital property.
- Deleting old posts. Some social media users assume deleting old pictures or setting all accounts to private will eliminate any negative impact on a divorce. This is not the case. Deleting old posts or pictures could be considered destruction of evidence, something that may not bode well for you in the future. If you have posts you are worried about, your best option is to speak with your divorce attorney about them to determine how to best address the potential issues going forward.
- Posting anything without speaking to an attorney. If you have any social media accounts and have filed for divorce, be sure to discuss your online habits and friends with your attorney. Your attorney may have specific advice for you based on your situation.
The Basics of Social Media and Divorce
If you have social media accounts, don’t forget about them while you are going through the process of a divorce. It is natural to want to post online to show you are doing fine or use your accounts to vent. Unfortunately, you are never the only one looking at your social media. Your divorce is already painful, and it can become more so if an attorney misrepresents innocuous pictures or if your offhand comments online cause a rift between you and family members.
Even a simple picture of you celebrating at a bar with friends can be misconstrued in court, so make sure to review your accounts and online habits with your attorney. Share any posts or images online you may be worried about with your attorney and be sure to give your lawyer any aggressive or belittling comments your former partner has made about you online. Being on your best behavior online is key to protecting yourself from the perils of social media.
If you need a divorce attorney to guide you through a divorce while protecting your rights and any children you have, contact MPL Law Firm. For more than 40 years, we have been supporting families and individuals in York, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area with personalized, attentive legal representation. We get to know you and your concerns as we represent you in your divorce.
How to Deal With a Divorce in the Workplace
Deciding how to deal with divorce is always difficult, but chances are that you will need to continue working, even as you go through the legal process. Dealing with the stress related to divorce along with work projects can quickly become overwhelming, but there are ways you can stay professional and positive on the job despite the turmoil at home:
1. Report the Divorce to the Appropriate Parties at Work
You may want to let HR, your supervisor and your employer know about your divorce, especially if you have court dates coming up or if you may need to take some calls. You may also want to let your team members know, in case they notice mood changes.
In addition, talk to HR about any benefits that can help you now, such as childcare, paid time off or counseling services. When speaking about your divorce at work, stick to the facts and keep things brief. Your employer does not need, or likely want, details.
2. Be Discreet
While divorce is stressful, try to keep the impact on your work to a minimum. Avoid making it the primary topic of conversation and work hard to avoid any slowdown in your performance. Try to arrange your life so you miss as little work as possible as well. If you need to vent, try to do it with friends and family at home so you can keep your work life as professional as you can.
3. Have a Plan for When Things Feel Overwhelming
Working through divorce can cause many emotions to unexpectedly arise. One day you may feel hopeful and upbeat about your future, and just hours later, you may feel despair and intense grief. Expect the emotional ups and downs and have a plan for dealing with them.
Consider going to a private area in the workplace or going for a walk to clear your head. Use soothing music or deep breathing and meditation to get a handle on your emotions. You might also try working out your feelings before work, so you are clear-headed and prepared for your day.
4. Minimize Calls, Texts and Emails With Your Spouse
When going through a divorce, you will likely have some contact with your spouse to discuss childcare or other urgent matters, but try to keep contact to a minimum. Not only will the calls, emails and texts impact you emotionally, but any disagreements you have can potentially affect your case in court.
Trying to handle personal matters at work can also affect your work performance and can be a big distraction. The best course of action may be to work with a divorce attorney, who can contact your spouse and their attorney when information needs to be passed on.
5. Create a Focused and Positive Environment
Take good care of your health and be kind to yourself so you can create the best environment possible. Consider speaking with a therapist if you are struggling or having trouble sleeping. A professional can teach you how to work through a divorce by showing you how to manage your emotions and navigate the uncertainty of the divorce process. Speaking with your divorce attorney is also helpful as they can often set out a firm plan or timeline for how the process with progress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and informed.
At work, create the best possible environment, whether that means asking to be placed on specific projects you are good at or removing all memories of your marriage from your desk. Where possible, try to keep your work place as divorce-free as possible. You can focus on the legal procedure when you are at home or speaking to your attorney.
The Bottom Line About Divorce and Work
Divorce can be one of the most stressful times of your life, and you don’t want it to have an impact on your work performance, too. While it may be unrealistic to think divorce won’t affect your job at all, keeping the negative impact to a minimum is good for your career and your emotional well-being.
If you need a divorce attorney to help you with the legal side of the proceedings so you can focus on the rest of your life, contact MPL Law for a consultation. The sympathetic team at MPL law has decades of combined experience and will work with you to find the right solution for your specific circumstances.