Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is awash in negative press and faces the potential forced sale of his team after a tape of his racist statements was released to the public. The tape was made by his girlfriend, and it is not clear exactly who released it to the public. According to CNN, Sterling indicates that he was “baited” by his girlfriend into making the racist comments. He also said he had no idea that the comments he made were being recorded. The girlfriend is currently being sued by Sterling’s estranged wife to recover more than $2 million in gifts that she was given.
The release of the tape should serve as an important reminder that comments made in private can become public. This is especially true if you are living with or having a conversation with an estranged spouse or romantic partner and a divorce is imminent. An experienced family law lawyer in Austin can provide advice and assistance throughout your separation and the dissolution of your marriage so you can protect your rights.
Taping Your Spouse in Texas
Even as Sterling’s remarks have drawn justified criticism, however, there are questions about whether the tapes should have been released. In the state of California where they were recorded, it is a felony to tape someone without his permission or knowledge.
Other states, however, have different laws, including Texas. In Texas, a person may tape a conversation either in person or on the telephone. However, this is permissible only if the person taping the call is a party to the conversation. If a husband or a wife is on the phone or speaking with an estranged spouse, therefore, he is allowed to make a tape of the conversation even without permission as long as he or she is a part of the discussion.
Taping a conversation that you are not a party to, on the other hand, is a felony criminal offense. If you tape your spouse’s conversation with someone else, you can be charged with illegal wiretapping, which is a federal crime.
This is true even if you tape your spouse with a shared child. For example, if you are concerned about how your husband or your wife is speaking to your son or daughter, you may not tape their conversations unless you have permission or unless you are a party to the talk.
Since it is legal for your spouse to tape you as long as he is talking as well, it is essential for you to always assume that your words are being recorded in the time leading up to your divorce. Do not say anything that you would not want repeated before a judge as it is always better to be safe than sorry. The excuse that you were baited into making threats or baited into saying something you regret is unlikely to work for Sterling, and would also be unlikely to work in your own divorce if you said something you shouldn’t.
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