Can You Obtain Text Messages Without Consent During a Divorce?

What you need to know in order to avoid liability or criminal charges under Missouri wiretapping laws.

Divorce attorney in St Louis

If you have suspected your spouse is having an affair and want to catch them in the act to use their own words against them in court, you might be tempted to look on their phone for evidence. But in Missouri, there are “wiretapping laws” that are similar to federal laws, and they might prevent you from being able to use your spouse’s cell phone conversations against them when you go to court.

Understanding Wiretap Laws

In Missouri, wiretap laws are used to prevent someone from intercepting with knowledge of any wire communication through the use of a mechanical or electronic device. The first point is that it is illegal to “intercept,” which assumes that there was the intent to catch someone through their wire communication, or that someone attempted to do so. For all intents and purposes, tapping into text messages is equal to verbal communication. The law considers it “aural communications,” because it is essentially another way of communicating with words.

The second stipulation for the law to apply is the communication between two people has to be a “wire communication,” which means that they have to use the transmission of wire cable or something similar with various points of reception. The third is that the interception must be made through using a mechanical or electronic device for an interception. Additionally, in order for it not to be considered wiretapping, you must prove that you had your partner’s consent to being taped.

Although it may seem appealing to try to catch your spouse in the act and record them as evidence, breaking the wiretapping law can come at a much stiffer price. If you are found guilty of wiretapping your partner, you might be liable for actual damages and punitive damages.

And even if you can catch them through wiretapping, you are almost assuredly not going to be able to use it in court. Whatever you turn up will probably be inadmissible in a court of law because it violates Missouri laws. Even if you testify to it, then you can be accused of illegally eavesdropping, so it likewise will not be admissible in a court of law.

When it comes to videotaping the same rules apply. The courts do not look favorably on obtaining evidence against a spouse through illegally taping them without their consent. Unless the acts are especially egregious, it will probably reflect more poorly on you than on your spouse. So in other words, although it may be tempting, if you believe that your spouse is having an affair, then there are better ways to find proof than snooping on their mobile device or phones. If you do catch something, in Missouri you will need more proof than whatever you learned from eavesdropping.

How a St. Louis Divorce Attorney Can Help

Hundreds of questions come to mind as the stark reality of divorce settles in. As a firm, our goal is to help you find the answers to those questions and to begin the next phase of your life with as much ease as possible.

At The Betz Law Firm, our legal practice is focused exclusively on family law and consists of a staff of experienced professionals who have immense knowledge of all the legal issues that can arise during a divorce. Contact us today for a free 30-minute phone consultation by calling (314) 801-8488 or by filling out our online contact form.