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    July 9, 2023
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    Steven A. Hemmat

How Can You Protect Your Privacy and Digital Footprint in Seattle During Divorce?

In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s essential to take specific steps to protect your privacy and digital footprint as you navigate the divorce process.

Whether your marriage has lasted for decades or under a year, the divorce process can seem daunting, overwhelming, and confusing. In addition to the seemingly endless steps and paperwork you must complete, your emotions may be intense as you mourn the end of this chapter of your life. It’s common for those coping with a failed marriage to feel isolated and anxious as they face an uncertain future. However, it’s essential to recognize that you are never alone during this challenging time. First, identify friends and family members who can provide the support and reassurance you need. You may also want to consider working with a therapist to work through your feelings and anxieties during this tumultuous time. Sometimes, just knowing that someone cares about you and your situation can empower you to move forward with greater clarity and confidence. Once you have found the emotional support you need, reach out to a compassionate Seattle divorce lawyer to discuss your unique needs and goals. Together, you and your attorney can develop a customized approach to navigating the divorce process as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Enlisting the guidance of an empathetic and experienced divorce lawyer carries many significant benefits. This seasoned professional knows how to advocate passionately on your behalf to ensure you walk away with the solid foundation you need to begin your life’s next chapter. In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s essential to take specific steps to protect your privacy and digital footprint as you navigate the divorce process. This post will explore why protecting your privacy is critical and provide some useful tips and strategies to ensure that your online privacy remains safeguarded at every turn.

How Online Privacy Impacts Divorce

Many married couples share access to joint online accounts, such as bank accounts, stock portfolios, PayPal or Venmo, and other finance-related websites. While we like to trust that soon-to-be ex-spouses will not wreak havoc on these sites, people can act unpredictably and vengefully during these periods of high tensions and emotions. For example, one spouse may attempt to move money from a joint account to their personal account before the divorce is finalized. Also, many spouses know each others’ passwords to social media accounts, email, and other platforms. It’s not unheard of for an upset spouse to log into their partner’s social media or email accounts to monitor their communications. Neglecting to change your passwords to any accounts or apps with private or sensitive information can leave you particularly vulnerable to inadvertently sharing personal information that your spouse could leverage against you during the divorce process.

Changing Your Passwords and Settings

There are so many things to think about when wading through the divorce process. Resetting your passwords and privacy settings is not an obvious step to take for many people, as they tend to focus on larger, more “big-picture” aspects of the separation process. However, changing your passwords as soon as possible is key to protecting your privacy and preventing your spouse from accessing sensitive information they could use against you. Below are just a few of the steps you can take to protect your online privacy and minimize the chances of your ex enjoying access to your highly personal information.

Financial Login Information

Personal bank accounts, cash-sharing apps (i.e., Venmo, PayPal, etc.), and long-term financial planning services in your name should be secured as soon as possible. Make it a priority to log in to these accounts and change the passwords to prevent your ex from accessing your balances or attempting to manipulate your funds. Financial considerations during divorce tend to be complex, so enlist the guidance of your attorney to determine the most appropriate and strategic path forward to keep your online financial accounts as secure and protected as possible.

Communication and Location Settings

As you end your marriage, you likely want to prevent your ex from viewing emails, texts, and other personal communications. You can start to limit their access by changing your email passwords and selecting a new unlock code for your phone and other devices (computers, laptops, tablets, etc.). 

You should also recognize that your ex may be able to monitor your physical location, so it’s worth taking the time to turn off or disable location services and any other functions that could be used to track your current or previous locations. Several of our clients have even shared an email password with their ex from before their separation, and it took weeks to realize the opposing party was reading all their confidential communications.

Social Media Platforms

Most people maintain some presence on social media. Whether you rarely post to Facebook or Instagram or you share a Tweet or TikTok video multiple times a day, an ex with access to your social media account can monitor your direct messages or even post as you. Be sure to change your passwords to your social media accounts as soon as possible to prevent your ex from viewing this highly personal information. Even if your ex can no longer log into your account, they can view your posts. You can “unfriend” your ex or block them from viewing your posts; however, blocking someone is not a guarantee that they will never be able to see what you post. Social media posts are, by nature, public. Your best bet is to avoid posting anything during your divorce, as your words or images could be used against you to undermine your credibility or suggest that you are not capable of providing a stable and nurturing home environment for your children. For instance, your ex could use a picture of you celebrating your divorce and consuming alcohol to depict you as an irresponsible parent. Refraining from posting on social media is the best way to protect your privacy and prevent your ex or acquaintances from using your posts against you.

The Cloud and Other Shared Services and Storage Accounts

If you and your ex shared access to cloud storage services (like Google Drive or Box), it’s essential to remember that they can easily view your materials, what you have shared with your attorney and other sensitive matters. Devote some time to changing the passwords to these accounts to ensure that your ex cannot monitor your litigation or strategy efforts during the divorce process.

Consider Two-Step Verification

As online security becomes increasingly important, many devices and services offer an added layer of security known as two-step verification. This setting makes it much more difficult for another party to log in or change passwords—if someone attempts to log in, this setting will notify you (usually via text) of the attempt and provide instructions to complete the login. Two-step verification ensures that you will be notified immediately of any attempts to access these accounts or devices.

What About Information or Posts You’ve Already Made?

Many people wonder whether they should delete old emails or social media posts to prevent their ex from twisting their words and using information against them to negotiate a more favorable divorce settlement. However, deleting previous posts may backfire, as your ex and their lawyer can use this action to support their arguments against you and your attempt to delete your posts as further evidence of your wrongdoing.

In some cases, deleting information may be viewed as evidence tampering, which significantly complicates your divorce proceedings. Before you rush into deleting old posts, discuss your situation with your trusted and knowledgeable divorce lawyer to determine the most strategic path forward.

Set Expectations and Boundaries With Your Loved Ones

Even if you stop posting on social media, your well-meaning friends and family may express support or mention your divorce on these platforms. Unfortunately, these expressions of support may attract your ex’s attention, and they may try to use these posts against you. As you move through the divorce process, contact your loved ones and explain to them why you are not discussing your divorce on social media (and urge them to do the same). While they may be confused at first, they will come to respect this decision as they recognize the importance of supporting you and protecting your privacy during this stressful time.

How Online Activity May Impact Custody or Spousal Agreements

If your divorce involves spousal maintenance or child custody negotiations, you should understand that your digital footprint or online activities could influence these determinations. For instance, if you are negotiating a parenting plan with your spouse and hoping to spend more time with your children, your ex and their attorney could use your social media posts to show that you are not a stable role model for your kids. They could point to images of you partying, smoking, or drinking as evidence of your questionable behavior. It’s also essential to refrain from posting negative comments about your ex on social media; even an offhand remark could damage your ex’s professional reputation (and, ultimately, negatively impact your ability to access spousal maintenance or other forms of financial support). As you move through the divorce process in Washington State, consider working with a dedicated and compassionate attorney who can help you secure the stable and secure foundation you need to move forward.

If you need help and guidance during the divorce process in the Seattle area, call the Hemmat Law Group today at (206) 682-5200 to speak with a caring and trusted divorce attorney.

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The Hemmat Law Group (HLG) was founded in 1994 by Steven Amir Hemmat, a former DOJ Trial Attorney. We specialize in family law, supporting victims of the legal system.

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Article by Steven A. Hemmat
Founder, CEO