The Issues with Technology and Electronic Data in a Divorce
When a couple divorces in today’s tech-obsessed culture, they’re now faced with the need to reorganize and protect their electronic data. Much of the financial, professional, and personal decisions we make each day are tracked or performed via technology. From online banking to social media posts, phone plans, and credit card statements, our digital data is valuable and can have a significant impact in a divorce.
Do you share passwords?
Like many couples do, if you and your spouse share logins and passwords, GPS locations, or tablets or computers, it is very likely you have access one another’s data. Normally, sharing data between spouses is a convenience, but when you are going through a divorce, this can cause a number of issues.
Any shared accounts, including email, phone plans, credit cards, bank accounts, or online subscriptions could all be accessible online. Even if a couple has their own individual logins and passwords, that data may be saved on phones, tablets or computers and could be accessible to anyone who uses that device.
Can your Facebook posts be used as evidence against you?
It has become quite common in recent years for electronic evidence to be used in divorce cases, especially through social media. Anything posted online, or found online, can be used as evidence. For example, let’s say one parent is trying to obtain sole custody of her children, but her spouse finds a photo of her consuming alcohol and partying on social media. If the photo was posted when she was responsible for the kids, the photo could be used as evidence to argue the mother is putting her children at risk and should not be awarded full custody. This is one just one example; other information obtained online – a new purchase, a vacation, a new romantic interest, where you have been and who you are with – could potentially all be significant in a divorce case.
Can your spouse have access to your personal data or GPS location?
Your spouse might be able to track your activities even if you are not sharing devices or login information. Many electronic devices sync together when they are shared by the same account. So, if at one point you ever synced your phone to your spouse’s tablet or computer, he or she may be able to see your private emails, text messages, and the like without you ever knowing. If the two of you ever shared your locations with one another through GPS, your spouse could even track where you go and could discover private information to use against you in court.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Electronic Data
To protect yourself, you must exercise caution when sharing any data while you go through a divorce. Before or immediately upon the decision to divorce, act quickly to change your account logins and separate any shared plans, accounts, and subscriptions. You may also consider creating a new email for during and after your divorce, especially if you and your spouse had a shared email account when you were together. By changing your email, you can ensure all your future contact with your divorce lawyer, or anyone else you discuss your divorce with, remains private.
While experts do not suggest deleting past social media posts or doing anything else that could be construed as a destruction of evidence, it is a good idea to limit what you share online. Remember, anything online can be used as evidence, so avoid sharing photos or other posts that could be used when you divide your assets or decide on child custody arrangements. Think before you share, and consider whether your post is incriminating or might be misinterpreted.
Read our full resource guide “Digital Divorce: A Guide for Social Media & Digital Communications in Divorce” to learn more about:
- How online evidence can be used in a divorce or child custody/support proceeding
- How to behave properly and protect yourself online if you are going to get divorced
- How to protect your privacy online during a divorce
Contact McKinley Irvin family lawyers in Oregon for more help protecting your electronic data in a divorce.