Issues with technology in divorce and separation
The use of technology in divorce and separation is fraught with danger. Here are some key issues to consider.
Separating your technology assets
Many of our clients shared email accounts and passwords with their partners during their relationship.
When your relationship ends, should your partner still have access to your information? Here are some ways to regain your privacy
- Change all your passwords. Don’t change them to something your ex could guess, such as children’s birthdays or favourite numbers. Come up with something completely different.
- Consider changing your email account. If your former partner set up the original account, they may be able to access your email via webmail, using a password they control. If you can’t change the password to your email account, consider setting up a whole new account. You may even want a new provider.
- Consider separate user profiles on your computer. If you and your children log in with the same details, your ex partner may have a chance to access your information. Perhaps they come to your home to collect or return the children while you are not there. They may check your data under the guise of playing computers games with the kids.
- Beware emails or social media messages from people you do not know. Do not open attachments unless you know and trust the sender.
If you don’t have a password or PIN on your mobile phone, add one immediately.
- Don’t leave your mobile phone anywhere that other people can access it.
- Did you and your partner set up “find my phone”? If so, uninstall or change the settings so that your former partner can’t access your phone.
It is illegal for anyone to access your communications without your consent. However, if they have the information, they can use it to their advantage. Even worse, they may use it to keep tabs on you.
Protecting your privacy
It is much easier to take precautions so no one accesses your information, rather than handling the consequences once it has been accessed.
There is very sophisticated spyware available online nowadays. Your former partner only needs one opportunity to download it to your phone! Once done, they can see every text and email you receive, and listen to your phone conversations. They can turn your phone on and use it as a recording device, or take photographs of you and send them to a remote address.
Spyware can be installed on a phone in only a few minutes. Some of the more sophisticated programs are installed simply by opening what looks like a harmless email attachment.
This spyware software is illegal in Australia. If you discover it installed on your device, report it to the police.
Technology-based communication with your ex during divorce or separation
Don’t engage in rapid exchanges with your ex by text or email. Responding when emotional or upset is never a good idea. It can escalate conflict.
Text and email are even worse, because the other party can keep a digital record and even use it against you. Instead, wait until you have calmed down and thought rationally about your response. It will usually be very different from what you might have said in anger.
Social Media during divorce and separation
We tell our children all the time to be careful about what they post on social media. Yet common sense flies out the window for many when they separate from their partner.
If you post something on social media, even with strict security settings, former partners - or their family and friends - can often access that information. If you don’t want them to know where you are or who you are with, don’t “check in” or post details of your activities.
Beware the risks of technology in divorce proceedings. Anything you post on social media can be used as evidence in court. Even if you later take the post down, someone may have a screen shot of it. That can be used in evidence. It's also possible to subpoena your service provider to access your social media file.
Emotional issues and wellbeing
When parents separate, conflict between them can be very damaging for the children. It isn’t limited to actual arguments between their parents. Children may also see inappropriate comments where one parent (or family or friends) posts about the behaviour of the other parent.
Social media can also be used to intimidate or undermine people. If you are reading posts which upset you, the easy solution is just to stop reading. Change your settings and block any contacts who are letting those posts reach you. You can ask your family and friends to block those people too. Social media can resemble bullying – if you take away the bully’s power, then there is not much fun in it for them. Eventually they will stop.
Please contact one of our solicitors for further information about managing the risks of technology in divorce or separation.