Don't Forget Your Online and Digital Presence During Divorce
During a divorce, it is natural to consider how to divide the physical property, but easy to overlook how to deal with your often considerable online presence. Your online and digital presence can include accounts such as email; cell phone; shared computers, cable TV; Netflix or other TV subscriptions; social media; and passwords for various accounts.
· Email - It is important during and after divorce that you have an email account that is not known to or shared by your spouse. Even if you feel your current email is already separate, there is a high likelihood that your spouse knows or can guess your email address or password. Because many of your communications with your attorney are through email, you want a new email account with an email address or password that is not based upon any pet names, children's names, birthdates or years, nicknames, hobbies, or occupations. If it's difficult for you to think up a suitable email address or password, you can use some random words out of a book or advertisement. Until you're used to the new email address and password, find a safe place to store them. Once you've set up the new email account, share it with your attorney and remember to check it daily. If you choose to continue to use your old email account, do not use it for divorce or spouse related communications with others. The whole idea is to close off an avenue for your spouse to find information you want kept private.
· Cell Phone - There are a whole host of opportunities for spouses to know what's going on in each other's cell phones. Google and Apple accounts are often shared on a family basis. Apps that can track phone activity and location can be placed on your phone without your knowledge or permission. Your best protection when you are divorcing is to set up new service in your own name with a new provider and a new Google or Apple account. If you can't afford a new phone, you should at least factory reset the phone you have. Doing all this can be time consuming and cumbersome but is the best way to make a clean digital break during divorce and provides the peace of mind that your spouse does not have access to your phone activity. You especially want to keep your communications with your attorney private.
· Computer - If you and your spouse share a computer, take the time while you still have access to the computer to separate out your personal data and secure it on a different device. If it's date that is personal just to you and not things like joint bank accounts and tax returns, delete the data you have secured elsewhere. In addition, you want to delete your browsing history from the joint computer, and any passwords you have set up to be remembered.
· Social Media - When you are considering divorce or in the middle of one, social media is not a good place to share all your activities and thoughts. Even if you're sure you have your privacy controls set so that your spouse does not have access, your spouse has friends and friends of friends who might have access. Evidence in more than one divorce case has included negative pictures and posts from social media accounts that people thought were secure and private.
· Things It's Hard to Even Remember - Our digital presence is so much more expansive than we even realize. Now is the time to sit down and make a list of all the transactions you do online and change the user names and passwords on a device separate from any joint device you have shared with your spouse. Even if you and your spouse have separate logins to some of these accounts, you should still change your login information. Most people are very predictable in how they choose user names and passwords. We think we're being clever, but for someone who knows you well, access to your accounts might just be a matter of educated guessing.
Separating and securing your digital and electronic presence can be a bigger job than you anticipate, but is important in a divorce. An experienced lawyer can help you cover your bases.
© 2018, The Wollard Law Firm, PC dba Foothills Family Law