How to Protect Your Privacy During Divorce

If you’re going through a divorce, it’s always best to pretend that anything you write, tweet, text, or send digitally will one day be read in front of a judge.

By Bruce Provda
Updated: December 18, 2014
Protect Your Privacy During Divorce

News of your divorce will spread quickly through the workplace, church and community. You can expect to be asked invasive, offensive and upsetting questions. Well-intentioned family and friends won’t be the only people asking nosy questions. Others will as well — simply because they feel they can.


Juicy gossip around the water cooler is a trophy. Expect to be quizzed by people who have no business asking, let alone the need to know.


You have a right to privacy and a responsibility to protect your privacy along with your reputation. There’s no reason to tell everyone everything about how your soon-to-be-ex has done you wrong. You don’t need to discuss the terrible thing they did or how they are involving the kids. That’s your business.


Come up with a stock answer  which you feel comfortable handing out to the busy-bodies. Having a stock answer in your toolbox will stop the conversation — and future questions — immediately. A stock answer will also help you stay sane and keep your stress levels below the boiling point.


Try something like:


“It’s been a challenge. Every day though I’m getting better. Thanks for asking.”


Next, turn the tables and ask the questioner, “How are you?”


When they answer that one, have your next question ready.


“What have you been up to?”


Just keep your stock answers simple and get plenty of practice ahead of time so that you’ll be prepared to answer the question and turn the subject of the conversation back to them.


Nosy people aren’t the only ones you need to keep on your radar when it comes to maintaining your privacy.


Staying Private in an Age of Hi-Tech


In one Michigan case that generated national attention, Leon Walker was charged with hacking laws for checking his wife’s email without permission. It’s a crime usually kept on standby for people who have committed identify theft. If Walker is convicted, he faces up to five years in state prison.


While in the process of divorcing, Walker and his wife still shared their residence. They were both living in the home when he checked her personal email account. Walker had bought the computer for her and the computer was kept in the den of their home where he regularly used it. His wife even kept all of the passwords in a notebook she stowed next to the keyboard.


Walker believe she was having an affair with her second ex-husband. Walked feared for the safety of his children and read the emails which confirmed his suspicions that the soon-to-be-ex was having an affair with her ex.


In Michigan, legislators have spoken out and said that the intention behind the anti-hacking law was not to charge spouses for spying on each other, but rather to punish serious criminal offenders. The county District Attorney though sees it different and believes that Walker has violated the law.


Walker’s case, which comes to trial after the first of the year, highlights the needs to be proactive in protecting privacy during a divorce.


Using digital devices to send and receiving information also leaves footprints and copies of documents long after you think they’re destroyed.


Steps to Keep Private Information Private


If you are planning on getting a divorce, it’s best to assume that anything you put on line can be found by your spouse, even if the information is protected by a password and not available to the public. This does not mean that you have to make it easy for your spouse to find potentially damaging information from your on line activity.


A few tips to help keep your privacy private:


1. Change your passwords routinely. Make sure to change all of our passwords and their related security questions. Don't’ overlook the passwords of bank accounts, emails and other on line accounts.


2. Strengthen and Change Security Settings on Networking sites. Make sure you set your security preferences to private and go through your “friends” list and remove everyone who may give your spouse access to your account.


3. Don’t email it if you don’t want your spouse to read it. Emails to that new girlfriend or boyfriend can come back to haunt you. A judge can issue an order forcing you to keep your emails so they can be used as evidence.


4. Remove questionable content. If you have anything on line that has the potential to put you in a negative light, remove it right away. This includes photographs, messages from friends, updates and any thing else that may be incriminating.


Think Before You Tweet


In today’s world of digital social networking, electronic evidence can be a trove of valuable information in a lawsuit. Many people have had very little guidance about privacy in a divorce and don’t realize that everything they put on line can come back to bite them in the divorce or custody battle.


Long after hitting the “Delete” button, a computer stores information. Computers are constantly journalizing a history of the places visited on line, the photographs sent and received and the emails written.


According to computer experts, Internet browsing history stays on the local computer even if someone clears the browsing history. Most computer users do not understand that the browsers history is just one record generated by the computer. There are at least two others sources from on line that forensic examiners can easily recover.


There is little information that isn’t relevant during a divorce. In many divorces there are credit card statements, bank statements and other data which shows the property, debt and assets in the marital estate. Even where both parties have been separated for a long period of time, the Courts still will compel the parties to exchange financial information. There should be no expectation of privacy when it comes to transferring money to a sibling in the middle of a divorce or spending money at Victoria’s Secret. In an already emotional time of life, this type of information may lead to further delay and increased cost in finalizing a divorce.


If you’re going through a divorce, it’s always best to pretend that anything you write, tweet, text, or send digitally will one day be read in front of a judge.


Bruce Provda, is  founder of Provda Law Firm in New York City. Bruce is a published writer and an active community leader.


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December 17, 2014

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