Protecting your Digital Privacy in Divorce

Digital privacy has been a big story in national politics. While you may not be concerned about the Russians hacking your emails, digital privacy in family law is important. This is especially true where spouses/ex-spouses share computers, cell phones and cloud services. Depending upon the facts of each case, the following is a list of steps a client can take to protect his or her privacy:

1. Get a new computer. If you have ever shared a computer with your spouse or if they have had access to it, there may be spyware or monitoring apps on the computer that allows the spouse to monitor your usage and location history. These days it is often less expensive to buy a new computer than to have an IT expert make sure that the computer is clean.

2. Erase your digital history on a shared computer. If you are going to be handing over a shared computer, make a back up onto a hard drive of all of your data and then clear all of your passwords and auto-fill history. Also, clear the web browser history so your spouse cannot automatically log into your email, social media or other accounts. In this regard it is probably a good idea to have an IT expert provide assistance.

3. Buy a new phone and plan. Your spouse may have placed tracking or monitoring software on your phone or still have access to cloud backup sites such as I-Cloud, which automatically backs up your phone. Although you can change all passcodes, passwords, thumbprints or other security in place, it is probably better to buy a new phone and deactivate automatic cloud backup sites. Otherwise your spouse can monitor your call logs and text messages.

4. Back up and deactivate all social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Most social media sites allow you to download all of your posted content, but you must do this before you deactivate your account. After backing everything up, deactivate it and do not use any social media sites.

5. Change and create new strong passwords for all accounts, particularly email accounts. A strong password will prevent your spouse or others from accessing your email. A strong password is at least eight (8) characters long, contains upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters like dollar signs and question marks.

6. Deactivate any shared or joint phone plans or other joint on-line services. This includes Apple I-Cloud settings or Google cloud settings.

I had a client tell me that he knew about his duty of disclosure and had nothing to hide from his spouse. That he really didn’t care if she had access to his emails. I then asked him how he would feel if his emails to my office regarding the settlement of disputed issues were going to be read by his spouse. Although he told me he didn’t care, I believe upon reflection he will care and I am hopeful that he will take my advice to secure the privacy of his email and cell phone accounts. After all, how would he feel if he told a friend on email that he was depressed, discouraged and struggling to carry on with his parenting responsibilities, only then to find his email attached to the other parent’s exhibit list in a contested custody proceeding. For many reasons, maintaining privacy is always a good practice in family law.

Do you want to hear more about the latest information on Digital Privacy? If you have questions regarding this issue, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. The Law Office of Bawden & Kochis also handles legal issues regarding adoption, annulment, mediation, domestic violence, child custody, child and spousal support as well as pre-marital and post-marital agreements. Telephone (909)792-0222, or email us at [email protected]

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