A divorce can take an emotional and financial toll, regardless of who initiated the separation in the first place. And while it’s only natural and healthy to seek advice and emotional support during your divorce, it’s important to only do so privately with friends and family whom you can trust not to betray any sensitive information to your spouse — and even with them, you need to be careful.
Your online accounts contain all sorts of information that could be potentially used against you during divorce proceedings, which is why preventing your spouse from making unwanted intrusions into your sensitive online information is critical during a difficult divorce. And it’s also not unheard of for an angry, vindictive spouse to resort to identity theft to try and punish their ex.
Speak with an experienced divorce attorney for help maintaining the integrity of your online accounts, or continue reading for some helpful tips to get you started.
Change Your Passwords and Settings to Protect Your Online Privacy and Set Up Two-Step Verification
Ensuring all your sensitive digital information stays secure from your spouse can be a daunting task. An experienced divorce attorney can help you determine which passwords, logins, and settings need to be changed and updated, but you can start by looking at these key areas.
Communication and Location Services
One of your first priorities should be ensuring that your spouse cannot see communications like emails and text messages. At a minimum, you need to change the passwords for any email accounts and change the unlock codes for your phone and other devices.
Another major factor to consider is your spouse’s access to location services. Some people have apps for their phone or vehicle that allow certain people access to their current location. Some of these apps have seemingly innocuous functions, like helping you find a misplaced phone or laptop. However, just like the social media tracking services mentioned below, anything and everything that can be used to track your current or previous locations (including GPS logs in your car), needs to be disabled if possible.
You’ll need to ask your attorney about how to handle shared bank accounts during a divorce, but there are a few other finance-related items that you can look at on your own. These include PayPal and other cash-sharing apps, your personal online banking login, and any long-term financial planning services, all of which you should secure with new passwords and security questions.
Social Media Accounts
Make sure to change your social media passwords so that your spouse cannot access your accounts and post as you. Besides that first step, here are some extra security measures and tips that can help you maintain your privacy on social media sites like Facebook.
First, make it more difficult for your spouse to view your posts by unfriending them and anyone who might help them view your profile. Then, change all your account privacy settings so only friends can view your content. However, understand that this doesn’t mean your social media posts can’t be used against you; your spouse’s attorney may still be able to access them and present them in court.
Because social media posts are never truly private, your best option is to not post at all. At the very least, do not post anything about the divorce, what you are doing, or where you have been. You never know how your spouse’s lawyer may try and manipulate the harmless post of the pasta you ordered last night or your fun night out with friends into something they can use against you.
Second, disable all location tracking services. Some social media accounts have options to let friends access your current location. Even if you trust your friends, you need to turn these trackers off.
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Shared Services and Storage
Not only could your spouse rack up bills through your Amazon account, but shared movie and music streaming channels like Netflix or Spotify can provide another avenue for your spouse and their attorneys to keep an eye on what you are up to. Apple/iTunes IDs, iCloud accounts, Google Photo storage, and online shopping accounts are also all potential liabilities that need to be secured.
At the same time you are changing passwords, you should set up an extra layer of security known as two-step verification. This setting makes it so that any new logins or password changes will require a code (usually sent by text message to your mobile phone) to complete the login. This prevents your ex from guessing a password for a site and getting in without you knowing.
Don’t Delete Information or Posts You Have Already Made
Remember that although you should always secure your accounts and devices, you shouldn’t delete information. Deleting content like social media posts can sometimes count as evidence tampering, and the court won’t look kindly on it. Also, once you delete information, your ex and their attorney can argue that whatever damaging claim they’re trying to prove about you is true and point to your deletions as proof. Protect all your personal data by changing passwords and settings and turning off location services, but never delete anything without first speaking to an experienced divorce attorney.
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Your Online Privacy Protection Checklist
When you start securing your data and sensitive information during a divorce, you might be surprised to realize the extent of your relevant personal files, accounts, and communications. Here’s a quick checklist for double-checking that you have locked your spouse out of accounts that are easy to forget.
- Mobile apps: Your smartphone and other mobile devices can be a massive liability during a divorce since many apps keep you logged in by default. Look at your phone, tablet, and even TV apps and double-check that your spouse does not have access.
- Bookmarks and favorite sites: Check your frequently visited sites and the bookmarks saved on your computer. Do any of them require logins? Is your spouse able to access these accounts? Will they be able to guess your password because it’s your dog’s name?
- Recent spending history: Check your various bank and credit card statements for the last couple of months. These statements show you all the places you spent money recently, so they can remind you of online retailers and other logins that you may need to change.
Once you’re confident that you have a comprehensive list of all your online accounts and logins, consider using a secure password manager such as 1Password, LastPass, or BitWarden. Not only do these password managers store your passwords securely, but many will generate secure passwords for you.
Myers Law Firm: Experienced North Carolina Divorce Attorneys
If you’re going through a difficult divorce, you need to take steps to maintain the integrity of your online accounts and prevent your spouse from making unwanted intrusions into your sensitive data. At Myers Law Firm, we can help guide you through the process of securing your accounts and protecting your privacy so you can go forward with confidence and peace of mind.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.