Over the past few years, Illinois has gained some notoriety in legal circles for having one of the strictest eavesdropping laws in the country. In fact, the law, which governs the recording of conversations, was so strict that the Illinois Supreme Court eventually struck it down because of civil rights concerns. It prevented citizens from recording police while they were on duty, which many civil rights advocates believe helps keep police from abusing their authority. Following that decision, the Illinois Legislature drafted and passed a new law that was designed to avoid those civil rights concerns, while still protecting people's privacy. This new law is important for people going through divorce because many people unwittingly violate this law by recording their spouse in an attempt to gather evidence for their future divorce case.
Public Conversations and Private Ones
The new Illinois law breaks conversations into two categories: public and private. Public conversations can be recorded without concern. Private conversations, on the other hand, require the consent of everyone in the conversation before they can be recorded. This leads to the important question of how to distinguish between a private conversation and a public one.
According to the law, a private conversation is any oral communication between two or more people where at least one person reasonably intends the conversation to be private. That definition is something of a legalistic mess, but the important words in it are “reasonably intends.” For a person to reasonably intend a conversation to be private two things have to happen. First, they have to actually want the conversation to be private. Second, the conversation has to happen in a way that a reasonable person would think it would be private. For instance, a conversation in a home is more likely to be considered reasonably private than a conversation on a city bus.
Why This Matters in Divorce
While this is a criminal statute, it matters to divorcing couples because many people mistakenly believe it is a good idea to start gathering evidence against their spouse without first consulting an attorney. This can lead to people making illegal recordings of their conversations or snooping through their spouse's email, which is at best a legal gray area. The court system provides a wide array of legal tools for parties to gather the evidence that they need to build their case. Consultation with an attorney can help explain these different tools and outline the legal boundaries of what evidence is and is not appropriate to bring in.
Accidentally running afoul of the law can still come with serious consequences, and courts do not accept the excuse of ignorance of the law. If you are thinking about filing for divorce, contact an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney
today to learn more about the process.