Keep an Eye on Online Privacy During Divorce
As you go through a divorce, you will also need to reconstruct your online life. These tips can help you manage social media and protect your privacy.
Divorce can be a challenging time emotionally, practically and financially, regardless of the unique circumstances of your situation. Receiving support and expressing yourselves to those you love and trust can be an important part of processing the experience. At the same time, however, it is important to be wary of excessive online exposure and guard your online privacy.
Protecting Your Online Privacy
Of course, the best way to seek comfort during a divorce is in person with friends and family members that you know and trust. However, many people have robust online support systems and friendships that they may also rely upon for support. While online friends should in no way be excluded from your circles, it is important to remain aware of privacy. This can mean making sure that your online conversations are real-time rather than logged and only with known and trusted friends, rather than in open chat areas or public social media accounts.
Online accounts can contain material that could be used against you by the other party in your divorce, especially if the end of your marriage is a high-conflict situation. Your family law attorney can provide you with important guidance about keeping your personal information protected while still being able to seek the support you need. A family lawyer may also be able to provide advice about maintaining your online security or point you in the direction of reliable information.
The First Step: Protecting Your Passwords
The first step you can take to protect online privacy during a divorce is to make sure your passwords and settings are updated and changed. Many people may share passwords, even casually, with a spouse, during their marriage. They may use their spouse’s devices to log in to their accounts and save their credentials on the device. In order to prevent unwanted parties from entering your account, ensure that your passwords and settings are changed to a value that only you know.
Make sure to change the unlock code on your phone, computer and other devices. In addition, wherever possible, turn on two-factor authentication. This can help prevent any intrusions made possible by leaked information or lingering credentials. This can help to keep your emails, instant messages, social media profiles and other communication methods as private as possible.
The next step to consider is location services. Many people have downloaded tracking or finder apps on their phones and given permission for their spouse to see their location. While this may have had a practical value at the time, it can be important to deactivate these services during and after the divorce.
When it comes to bank accounts, passwords are more complicated. Your personal passwords and accounts can be secured with a new password, but joint bank accounts may be more complex. In addition, changing the password on financial accounts during the marriage could potentially be construed as a means of hiding assets. Changing the password on an account does not change its status as marital or separate property. Consult with your divorce lawyer about how you can best protect your online financial privacy without overstepping the boundaries of the property division process.
Shared services and accounts are another matter to keep in mind. It may seem petty to change the Netflix password, but it can be important to keep your iCloud, Google Photos, Apple ID and other information private. Even Netflix and Spotify can allow for more tracking than you would prefer, and it can be better for both spouses to open their own accounts during the divorce process and change their passwords for privacy.
Social Media Guidelines
Social media guidelines can be particularly important during a divorce. Of course, make sure to change your account passwords and enable two-factor authentication to ensure that only you can access your social media account. However, in addition to protecting the integrity of your account, it can also be important to gain distance from your spouse on social media.
Unfriend or unfollow your spouse and their close friends and family, and change your privacy settings so that only those that you choose can read your content. Be aware, of course, that this is not a foolproof solution. Others may be able to see or read the content that you post publicly, including friends or acquaintances of your spouse who you may not have considered. Maintaining decorum and even silence on social media is a best practice in general, but it can also be important to protect your interests and your emotional health by raising your privacy protections.
No social media post is truly private. The best choice is simply not to post on social media about the divorce, your finances, new relationships, travels or other matters that could come up during the divorce negotiations or in a New Jersey family courtroom. You can discuss your social media strategy with your divorce lawyer for even more advice.
Of course, some people have careers for which their social media public profile is an important part of their livelihood. In these cases, work together with your family lawyer to determine a strategy for social media posts that steer clear of detailed areas of the divorce and seek legal review for any material that may touch on pending matters.
As with services like Google, Apple or Amazon, you may also want to disable all social media trackers or location services. Some of these may allow friends to see where you are. During your divorce, it is best to enhance your privacy settings as much as possible. After the divorce is finalized, you can choose the setting that you prefer.
Your social media posts could be entered into evidence at trial, especially if they relate to something material to the case such as your behavior toward the children, potential infidelity, hidden assets or other issues. This is a good reason to be circumspect on social media. However, this does not mean that you should delete your old posts. It is good to change your privacy settings to make them as tight as possible, but this does not mean deleting the post. In some cases, deletion could be considered a form of tampering with evidence. If you are considering deleting a part of your social media profile, consult with your family law attorney before making a decision.
Check for Additional Services
You may discover additional information during the divorce that is initially difficult to remember. You may be surprised how many online services and accounts you actually have.
Audit your mobile apps, many of which allow you to remain logged in by default on authorized devices. Clear out all authorized devices except your own, force a logout of all devices, and change the passwords in order to keep these apps private.
If you have shared a computer, you may have also saved your passwords in your spouse’s browser. This underlines the importance of changing all of your passwords. Go through your saved passwords as a reminder of all the accounts that you need to update during the process. You can also review your emails, bank accounts and credit card statements to find e-commerce vendors and online retailers where you may maintain a forgotten account.
Consult With a New Jersey Divorce Attorney
Online privacy is one way that you can help to protect yourself during a pending divorce, even when the levels of conflict are very high. For detailed advice about how online behavior can affect your divorce, contact the experienced New Jersey divorce attorneys at Lawrence Law by calling 908-645-1000 or by sending our online form to schedule a consultation about divorce and finances.