From shared on-line accounts to cell phone family plans, technology and divorce overlap in a myriad of ways. Consider it essential to separate and start fresh the landscape of your digital life. Here are seven areas of technology not to neglect as you separate from your spouse.
To ensure your communications with your lawyer are confidential, you need a new designated email address with a secured password, such as a Gmail account (which a former client of mine affectionately called his “D-mail” account). In the paperless age, this will also keep you organized for the onslaught of paperwork coming your way. Avoid using a work email for private legal communications about your divorce because you do not want to find out later that your employer owns and/or has privy to all of these communications, documents, and details. You will want to keep communications and documents for future use which could become cumbersome to transfer or lost altogether if you change jobs. Having ready access to a private printer and scanner will also streamline the legal piece of your case and keep cost and aggravation to a minimum.
New Apple ID/Google ID
These often work on the “family” plan concept so be mindful that without creating your own separate profile, your spouse may have cloud access to your location, your calendar, your text messages, and your photos. Separating spouses will also want to remove themselves from any shared Cloud plans as this information no longer should be “shared” in the same way. One divorcing mom once told me how she had taken photos of critical financial documents she located in her divorce preparations, only to have those photos pop up on her spouse’s photostream, signaling her intent. Yikes! A word to the wise.
If you and your spouse are on the same phone plan, it is time to separate the accounts. Better yet, change carriers altogether given that you can take your cellphone number with you. This will protect the cross-sharing of phone records by separating billing. Delete from your cell phone any strange apps you do not recognize and disable apps like the Find my iPhone app that can pinpoint your physical location. Access to a cell phone can be a major source of control between spouses. State law has recently expanded protections for domestic violence victims, including confirming sole use of cell phone numbers, accounts, and billing to the victim, as well as orders for the victim’s bill to be paid by the abuser for the term of the order.
Technology permeates every aspect of our day-to-day lives, and as such, it is essential to change your multitude of passwords when divorcing. From Amazon to Netflix to everything in between, every one of your passwords needs to be changed. Make sure your password recovery system is not being sent to a spouse’s email. Consider changing your security questions for password recovery as well. Select passwords which are not easy to guess (for those who know you well!), do not use the same password for every account and consider using a password generator. Use your Notes app (which you can lock with its own password or fingerprint) or an app such as Dashlane to store new passwords securely.
In addition to changing your social media passwords, now is a good time to audit your accounts for content. Public social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) are fair game when it comes to custody disputes and other court cases. Remove any social posts which do not serve you and remain cautious on future postings as well.
Similarly, be cognizant that text messages can be saved and presented to the court, living on far after the emotion which inspired them has died down. I have heard judges say they give substantial weight to text messages because they are considered “unedited” and revealing about a party’s credibility. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, text messages are one of the top three electronic elements used in divorce court. Simply put, never text something to your co-parent you would not want a judge to read. Also, save and print all text records that may be of value. Never rely on your phone to automatically hold them.
Finally, if there is a likelihood of high conflict parenting in your case, consider a co-parenting app, such as Our Family Wizard, to help streamline interactions and merge schedules. These apps have shared custody schedules, secure messaging, expense management and file storage for family data such as immunizations. They are most often used between parents who have a difficult time communicating and offer “tone” meters as well as tracking of when emails are opened which creates some transparency and accountability.
De-coupling is never completely clean, and often far from easy. Yet protecting yourself against privacy breaches is something you can start right away and finish completely on your own.