With the expansion of the digital world, your divorce case now transcends the everyday world of time and space that we inhabit daily.
Technology gives us so much and, at the same time, can pose a potential threat to your safety and well-being. Even if you are not tech-savvy or a person that spends a great deal of time online, there are still tips and advice that will be offered to you in this blog post that can potentially be of great help to you and your case.
What do you and your spouse share in terms of your digital footprint(s)?
Speaking from personal experience, my wife and I share numerous online accounts, and by necessity, each knows the single password to each of those accounts. There are also multiple websites that each of us accesses weekly or even daily that the other does not have an account with, but we know the passwords used on the other's accounts. Think about email, utility providers, social media, and the list goes on and on. It is not just the information and accounts that we share with our spouses that leaves us susceptible to our information being utilized in ways that we did not intend them to be.
The other point I wanted to make on this subject is that even if you don't know your spouse's password for an account or website, you likely know the three, two, or even the one password they use to grant them access to all of their online resources. It is easy enough to poke around and figure out all their access codes and passwords without them even knowing it. This presents a whole new level of security concerns for you and your spouse.
How to treat your digital security when Divorce is on the horizon
Very rarely do potential clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, tell me that the Divorce their spouse filed against him, or her came entirely out of the blue. There are usually warning signs or outright discussions on Divorce that precede the actual hiring of an attorney and filing the case in the county where you reside.
If you believe that either you or your spouse will be filing for a divorce in the coming weeks, now is an excellent time to begin to safeguard the personal information that you have online and that your spouse has access to. As we noted in the prior section to this blog post, it is possible that your spouse can access even the information that you have not allowed them direct access to.
All it takes is a bit of free time and some investigative know-how. If your spouse is the kind of person who can figure out the backstory of every person they are Facebook friends with, then don't think they couldn't figure out your Facebook password for a second.
Begin by changing passwords for all of your accounts. I don't mean changing a numeral here or there and leaving everything else the same. Change your passwords and give yourself a unique access code for each website. If somehow your spouse were to try and access a website by figuring out one password, that doesn't mean that they should be able to access all of your websites with the same password.
A second tip that I would provide is to secure any bank accounts you have online access to. While your temporary or standing orders likely will forbid both you and your spouse from any wrongdoing associated with bank accounts, that doesn't mean that your spouse will be as honest as you.
Furthermore, if your spouse does drain a bank account and you can hold them accountable, that still means the money isn't there for some time. At the very least, this is an annoyance for you to have to put up with.
The power of gathering your financial documents ahead of time
It will help protect yourself and your children by identifying your assets and debts at the very least. Log into your bank accounts online and understand your balances and what transactions have recently taken place. This should be a regular practice of yours, but if it isn't then, you should start doing so now. Take inventory of what is in each account.
Next, I recommend accessing a copy of your credit report (free to do once a year) and seeing what accounts are open in your name. If there are any that do not ring a bell contact each of them and inquire about when they were opened. It may be that your spouse utilized your information to take on debt that you are not even aware of. It is best to learn about this now rather than do so at the end of your Divorce. This allows you to take action early and often minimize any adverse effects on your life and ensure that your spouse is held accountable for their misdeeds.
From my experiences as a practicing family law attorney, those people who do not learn from early mistakes in their case end up being severely hurt by those mistakes as their cases progress. What's worse is that those don't even both learn the risks of having an extensive digital footprint. It would help if you protected yourself to avoid mistakes impacting your case.
Dealing with requests for financial information from your spouse
It is customary in many divorces to have your spouse submit requests for documents and information in the form of discovery requests. You and your attorney will likely do the same. Both sides will then have an opportunity to learn important information that can influence strategy in your Divorce. You will likely become aware of these discovery requests as your attorney emails or calls you requesting more documents that you knew existed in the entire world. It can be overwhelming to have a deadline attached to these requests.
Get ahead of the game by collecting crucial financial information- bank account statements, retirement account documents, tax returns, pension plans, etc.- ahead of time. You know that you will have to submit them to someone (it could be your attorney), so go ahead and get them organized now so that you are not rushed in getting them out. This snapshot of your finances could allow your attorney to prevent your spouse from shielding income that could be used to pay spousal maintenance or child support.
It is also critical for your court to know what sort of income you earn, what your monthly bills look like, and what your future costs associated with your family may look like. If you are the spouse that does not handle the bills or finances, you must get access to the information that you can, while you can. Suppose that your spouse suddenly changes a password without you knowing. You will be left in the dark and rely on them to access this information moving forward.
Remember that this is another step in the divorce process. If you take things piece by piece and are diligent about your attorney's requests, you will both save yourself time and stress and can also benefit your case a great deal.
How to best collect information and documents in conjunction with your Divorce- tomorrow's blog post topic
We will provide you with more tips and tricks when it comes to collecting valuable information and documentation for your Divorce in tomorrow's blog post.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about today's subject matter or any other in family law, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free consultations with a licensed family law attorney six days a week.
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