In this article...

In this article, we discuss the legality of spying on your spouse and answer the following questions:

  • Is it illegal to record or eavesdrop on my spouse?
  • Is it illegal to tamper with my spouse’s computer?
  • Is it illegal to track my spouse’s whereabouts?

In this article, we discuss the legality of spying on your spouse and answer the following questions:

  • Is it illegal to record or eavesdrop on my spouse?
  • Is it illegal to tamper with my spouse’s computer?
  • Is it illegal to track my spouse’s whereabouts?

As marriages fall apart and spouses anticipate divorce, poor judgment can lead to questionable behavior. Spouses believe if they can make themselves look better and their partners worse, it may give them advantages during the divorce proceedings. Spouses may resort to recording the other person, accessing sensitive information, and tracking their spouses’ location. Many assume that what they are doing is legally justifiable because of their relationship, especially if they catch the other person doing some “wrong.” However, this type of behavior is illegal in most instances, and anything the spying spouse finds is typically inadmissible as evidence.

Is It Illegal To Record Or Eavesdrop On My Spouse?

Illinois is an “all-party consent” state. This means when one person wants to record a conversation between himself and another person or anyone else, all parties must first give consent. If all parties don’t consent, the recording is inadmissible, and the person doing the recording may face charges. The legal definition of eavesdropping includes the descriptors “secretly or surreptitiously.” So, even if you are out in the open about the recording, the other person still has to give acknowledgment. However, there are some exceptions to the eavesdropping rule.

If you are open and conspicuous about your recording, the court may consider it admissible. For example, you’re at birthday and you’re recording a game being paid. Your spouse is intoxicated and begins acting belligerent or dangerously towards another person or your children. While this example might still face pushback from the court, the argument can be made that you were not recording intending to catch your spouse in the act. However, under the disorderly conduct law in Illinois, if you are inside or outside another person’s property, there are limitations on your ability to record even when being open and conspicuous.

If you inform your spouse that you are recording him or her, you must also have the consent recorded; otherwise, your spouse can just claim that he or she didn’t give consent. This also means if your spouse was too intoxicated to give consent reasonably, the judge might rule the evidence inadmissible. The only legal way to secretly record another person is if you suspect they have committed a crime or plan to commit a crime in the near future. Whatever you record would have to include the other person discussing or admitting to the crime for it to be admissible.

Violating the eavesdropping law in Illinois is considering a Class 4 felony on the first offense and a Class 3 felony thereafter. Multiple offenses may also open you up to stalking charges.

Is It Illegal To Tamper With My Spouses Computer?

This is one of the most common instances of spying that occurs between couples. One spouse suspects the other of adultery and seeks out their e-mail or text communication for confirmation. Under the Illinois Computer Tampering Law (720 ILCS 5/17-51), it is illegal for any person, including spouses, to access another person’s private data. Even if the computer is considered a “family computer” and is used by both spouses equally, the computer tampering law still stands. Cellphones are also considered “computers” under the tampering law. You might be asking yourself, “What if my spouse has given me their password?” Whether your spouse willingly gave you their login and password in the past or you guessed it based on other passwords, it is still unlawful to access their information without consent.

Is It Illegal To Track My Spouse’s Whereabouts?

Illinois law prohibits using a GPS tracking device on another person or the person’s vehicle without their consent. The law is somewhat opaque when the vehicle is titled under both spouses, but the court would likely require an explanation for why the tracking device was placed on the car without consent from the other party. Placing a tracking device on another person’s vehicle, including your spouse’s, can also lead to a stalking charge.

Bottom line, don’t try to spy on your spouse just because you think it will increase your chances of coming out ahead in the divorce proceedings. If you feel your spouse is doing something illegal, inform the authorities, and they can tell you how best to deal with the problem. 

Illinois is a no-fault divorce state meaning that neither party needs evidence to divorce the other. Spying on your spouse can only lead to charges against and won’t help you in any way during the divorce.

December 16, 2020
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