Many clients that we see have shared e mail accounts and passwords with their former partners during the course of their relationship. When that relationship ends, it is important to consider whether or not you wish your partner to be able to continue to access your information. If you don't then the following things are important:
- Change all of your passwords. Don’t change them to things that your former partner might be able to guess, such as children’s birthdays or favourite numbers. Come up with something completely different.
- Consider changing your e mail account. If your former partner has set up the account, it may be that he or she can access your e mail account on web mail using a password which they have implemented. If you can’t change the password necessary to access your e mail account, then consider setting up a whole new account, even a new provider.
- Consider setting up separate user profiles on your computer. If you and your children all use the same log in on your computer, and your former partner comes to the home to collect the children or return them when you are not there, it is easy for your partner to access your information, perhaps under the guise of playing computers games with the kids.
- If you don’t have a password/pin on your mobile phone, then put one on immediately.
- Don’t leave your mobile phone anywhere that anybody else can access it.
- Do not open attachments to e mails if you do not know the sender.
- If you and your partner have allowed “find my phone” to be installed, then consider uninstalling it or changing the settings so that your former partner can’t access it.
- Don’t engage in rapid exchanges with your ex, either by text or email. It can really escalate the conflict. Replying when you are emotional or upset is never a good idea. It is much better to wait until you have calmed down, and have thought rationally about your response. It will usually be very different to what you would have said if you responded in anger.
It is of course illegal for someone to access your communications without your consent. However, once someone has the information, they can use it to their advantage, or even worse, to keep tabs on you. It is thus better to make sure that your information is properly protected.
There is also very sophisticated spyware that is now available for purchase online. If your former partner can download that to your phone, then they can see all of the texts and e mails that you receive, listen to your telephone conversations, turn your phone on to use as a recording device, and take photographs of you and send those photographs to a remote address. I understand that this software can be installed on a phone in only a few minutes and with some of the more sophisticated software, can be installed by you opening what appears to be a harmless attachment to an e mail. This software is illegal in Australia, and if you were to find out that it is installed on your device, you should report that to the police.
It is much easier to take some extra precautions to stop your information being accessed, rather than to deal with the consequences of that access having occurred.
Social Media and Family Law
We tell our children all the time to be careful about what they post on social media. However, for a lot of people, common sense seems to fly out the window when they separate from their partner.
Once you have posted something on social media, even with strict security settings, there are often ways that former partners and their family and friends can access that information. If you don’t want your former partner to know where you are and who you are with, then don’t “check in” or post details of your activities.
Remember that if you post something on social media, it can be used as evidence in a court. Even if you have second thoughts and take the post down, if someone has a screen shot of it, that can be used in evidence. Service providers can also have subpoenas issued to them to access your social media file.
One of the most damaging things for children, when their parents separate, is being exposed to conflict between their parents. That isn’t limited to seeing arguments between their parents. It also applies to children seeing inappropriate comments posted by one parent, or family and friends, about the behaviour of the other parent.
Social media can also be used by people to intimidate or undermine people. If you are reading posts that are upsetting you, the easy solution is to just stop reading them. Change your settings so that you block any contacts that are enabling those posts to reach you. Consider asking your family and friends to also block those people. It’s really similar to bullying – if you take away the bully’s power, then there is not much fun in it for them, and eventually they will stop.