If you are considering separation or divorce, take steps now to protect your personal online and electronic information, especially regarding your finances. In many of today’s marriages, couples share a wide variety of digital accounts and devices such as home computers/laptops, wireless networks, tablets, email and more. They may also share the passwords that allow access to all of the above. This could become problematic if one spouse is not entirely truthful or forthcoming with all the financial information necessary.
Gather and protect all sensitive info
The first step in protecting your finances is to identify all marital assets, debts, income and household expenses. In more complicated marital estates, or in the interest of a less financially knowledgeable spouse, a certified divorce financial analyst can help sort through this information by looking for clues that suggest omitted details.
Protect your electronic devices that contain evidence relevant to the divorce. It’s also a good idea to electronically back up all hard drives of all digital devices in your home. This becomes relatively easy and inexpensive by using external backup hard drives. Then, store these hard drives in a safe place until needed. Stored information like this can provide a treasure trove of financial (and other important) information, since most people use their personal computers for sensitive accounting information and tax preparation.
If you have not paid attention to family finances, you are at a disadvantage in a separation or divorce. So, it is critical to quickly get up to speed on the family’s finances, ideally before the separation takes place and important documents are misplaced or “disappear.” Gathering and copying as much information as possible is vital to a fair and equitable settlement, even before discussing separation or divorce with your spouse.
Another important step is to secure a credit report for yourself and your spouse before or early in the divorce process. A credit report can offer details on accounts you may be unaware of, or debts that should be included in the divorce process. Get up to speed and keep apprised of all family finances, including online access logins and passwords.
Learn to be tech-savvy
Now is a good time to begin setting up your new single life with new computer equipment, financial accounts and passwords. When setting up new computer equipment, encryption creates a layer of security that protects the device and the information contained on the device from “attacks” from malicious software or apps.
Change all your passwords and do not use information that your spouse may know about you. If your spouse purchased your existing cellular plan, you may wish to obtain a new plan for yourself including a new phone. Unfortunately, if you continue to use your existing cell phone service plan, your spouse may legally have access to your records.
Never open attachments from unknown sources, and be skeptical of requests for personal information. Always log off or sign-out when you are finished using your computer. And don’t leave your computer, smart phone, tablet or laptop where others can access it.
Limit use of social media
Review your social media privacy settings and current content posted on your profile pages. When reviewing your privacy settings, understand that “blocking” your spouse will not prevent friends from sharing information with him or her or friends of friends from having access to your postings.
Technology can save time and money, but it can also cause problems if used improperly or unwisely during divorce. So, make sure you are using technology to your best advantage by following these recommendations.