Around 37% of marriages end in divorce in the U.S., a fact that has important personal and financial consequences for both parties. If you have already visited a lawyer in an effort to protect your rights, you may have been surprised to hear that one of their first pieces of advice was to protect your data during divorce. As friendly as a divorce may be, there are various pieces of information you may not want your ex’s legal team to bring up during divorce proceedings. Protecting the integrity of online information is key during this time in your life. Here are a few key tips that will ensure vital data is safe and secure.
Here is How To Protect Your Data During Divorce
Changing Passwords for Private Accounts
If you have a joint account with your ex-spouse, then both of you will have access to movements, financial statements, etc. However, you may also have a personal account, a Paypal account, and other entities in which you have a possibly significant amount of money saved. You may have shared your passwords with your spouse in the past, or you may have a way of setting passwords you have discussed. This is why completely changing passwords (and using a new system to set them if you have one) is key. You should also think of security questions that only you will know.
Protecting Social Media Accounts
Keeping information private is vital not only from a financial perspective. Human beings have built a ‘compulsory trust’ in technology because there are some services and forms of connection we cannot live without – including online banking and social media. During an ‘unfriendly divorce,’ your lawyer may tell you that an ex-spouse may choose to leak sensitive data, post in their ex’s name, or (in the case of technologically savvy individuals) use data for purposes such as ransomware or other forms of cyber attacks that restrict access to information or share private information. It is important to understand the important role social media can play in divulging sensitive data. Change your social media passwords, unfriend your spouse if necessary, and filter through your list of friends. You might also decide to unfriend persons who may divulge information you do share to your spouse.
If you have a shared cloud account with your ex, it is a good idea to make a backup of all shared files – think photographs, downloaded audiovisual files, and important work documents. Open up a new account for this type of document going forward. Also think of other passwords you may be sharing, including everything from online clothing stores to streaming services. Check your bank statements, as they will remind you of services you may be subscribed to or stores you will have made purchases from in recent months. From the outset, agree to open different accounts after your initial backup.
Even when a divorce is amicable, taking proactive steps in terms of online data is important. Changing passwords and backing up data is non-negotiable, as is discussing the separation of accounts for commonly used services with your former spouse. Finally, be wary about leaving devices around. Many will have apps that you are still logged on to, and some of these (think Messenger, Twitter and the like) may contain information you wish to keep confidential.
Jess Walter is a freelance writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelance life and the additional time it means she gets to spend with her family and pets.