9 Ways to Protect Your Privacy During Divorce
After two lives merge together in marriage, making a clean break can get complicated, especially in the digital age. Below are 9 tips for protecting your privacy during a divorce.
Change your passwords
Change your password for all unshared financial and personal accounts. If you suspect there might be spyware on your home computer, do this from a safe computer at a public library or internet café. Never log in to any account on a computer you think might be compromised.
When at home, skip the house Wi-Fi and invest in a secure MiFi. Always log off on shared devices and never select the “remember me” box.
Buy a new cellphone/tablet and data plan
Even though you can change your passwords and turn off shared devices and services, you might want to buy a new device and data plan anyway for peace of mind. This will ensure your spouse does not have access to text messages, call history, and other shared information you might not even be aware of.
Once you purchase a new phone, secure it with a PIN or fingerprint and enable 2-factor authentication. That way, even if your password is compromised, your accounts can’t be accessed without your new phone.
Avoid social media
Social media platforms are becoming a standard resource for divorce attorneys to build case arguments for custody, alimony, division of assets, and more. Avoid social media altogether, if possible.
If you must keep your social media accounts active, update the security settings to block or unfriend hostile contacts. Follow our recommendations to avoid these five ways social media can sabotage your settlement.
Check for spyware
Spyware is a type of software that can be installed on computers or phones, usually for a monthly fee. Users can deploy different types of spyware to monitor the content of incoming and outgoing emails, text messages, key strokes (aka. what you type into the keyboard), and web searches.
It is generally illegal to put spyware on a spouse’s phone or computer, but it gets complicated with marital property. If you think you are being spied on, contact the authorities and obtain legal counsel immediately.
Turn off shared devices and shared “cloud” services
Disable information-sharing across devices and services, including Amazon, Google, iCloud, Dropbox, shared calendars, and more. The “cloud” can be very complicated. You might want to consult with a technology specialist to make sure you don’t miss any important steps.
Consider mediation or collaborative divorce
Mediation and collaborative divorce keep couples out of the courtroom, which means the details of your case and personal financial information will not be submitted into the official court record.
Request court-sealed records
Your attorney can file a request with the judge to fully or partially seal your case file. While the request is not always granted, the court may agree to keep private any details that may hurt your career or work against the best interests of the children.
Put valuables and sensitive information in a lock box
If you are still cohabitating with your ex, there may be paperwork and other sensitive documents sitting around the house that should be kept private. Consider investing in a lock box to protect valuables you fear may be taken out of vengeance, or to secure critical documents like a password book or your Social Security card.
Notify doctors, financial planners, day care staff, schools, and other offices and institutions that handle sensitive information, about the divorce
Routine spousal permissions should be discontinued in the event of a divorce. For example, contact the pharmacy to let them know your ex-spouse is no longer permitted to pick up your prescription medications. If your ex-spouse is listed on your medical forms as an emergency contact or an approved recipient of HIPAA-protected information, you should replace them with a trusted relative or friend.
Financial planners and brokers should be notified to stop any major purchases or sales of investments without permission from both parties in writing, or until the divorce settlement is finalized. If your custody arrangement will change during the divorce proceedings, make sure day care and school staff know the new schedule.
The key to protecting your privacy during a divorce is attention to detail. Every single aspect of your life is about to change. What was once a duo, is now a solo act. If it helps, keep a journal of the people, subscriptions, services, devices, and institutions you interact with daily.
Is there anything these people need to know? What information do these devices and services have access to? Does my ex-spouse have access to this too? Should they? If not, how do I remove them?
Tackle each one at a time, and eventually you will regain your personal privacy and independence.