Fueled by a range of intense raw emotions and uncertainty about the future, divorce is often acrimonious in the best of times. Whereas once the inappropriate public airing of private disputes and revenge tactics were taken in a relatively confined circle, the rise of the digital age, including the ubiquitous nature of social media, has exponentially increased the number of challenges divorcing spouses face.
By the nature of what it is, the internet – especially social channels – reaches broad audiences, which go beyond close family and friends to include employers, co-workers, influential contacts and future resources. This is compounded by the fact that the internet is forever leaving potentially damaging information available for years, if not decades, to come.
While spouses may not have the power to control what is communicated via their social channels, they do have the ability to protect themselves against some of the most common nefarious tactics a spouse may employ against them during a divorce action. These range from stealing online credentials and hacking into email accounts to identity theft and even using social media content as ammunition in a child custody case.
How to Protect Yourself During A Divorce
Protecting yourself from the digital actions of a soon-to-be ex should include knowing what the law will and will not protect you from, as well as implementing some commonsense tactics. When you begin on your journey, consider employing some of the following best practices to ensure the security of your digital reputation:
1. Lockdown. Take stock of your digital presence, including social media accounts, shopping sites, media subscription services and more. After assembling the list, begin by changing passwords to all accounts that supply a gateway to your online life and work to make those pages private. Also consider social media sites where you may have potential interactions with a spouse and be sure to block them to create a digital record of distance and prevent any unwanted interactions. As an added step of protection, consider subscribing to a cyber security service to protect your digital identity.
2. Review Your Content. Often times, people are much more open on social media than they normally are in day-to-day life. Your social media accounts can become courtroom fodder by painting an unflattering picture that could be used against you. If you are a prolific poster, think carefully about what you have posted online and consider scrubbing your profile and taking greater care in what you post in the future…or even shutting down your social media interactions while a divorce is pending.
Anything that is posted can and will be used against you if litigation is pending on issues around child custody, child support or spousal maintenance. This also includes what you post on other people’s pages – including those with whom you may be mutual friends with your spouse.
3. Resist the Urge to Get Negative. When emotions run high, so does the innate reaction to lash out. Do not post negative information about your spouse online and do not respond to baiting or negative things they post about you. While it may be easier said than done, holding back your desire to expose a spouse’s nastiness or defend yourself can pay off in the long run, especially as divorce litigation proceeds forward.
4. Stay Focused. Your number one job during a divorce proceeding is to take care of yourself and prepare for the future. Don’t set yourself up to be compromised by engaging in online activities that may bring your character or reputation into the crosshairs. For example, if you are going to dive into the online dating pool, consider not putting “looking for casual encounters” while you are in the middle of a child custody dispute or boast about how much money you have while litigating a spousal maintenance claim. Keep your attorney in the loop and share information about existing or new relationships with your attorney so they are not blindsided should this information surface in the litigation.
The dissolution of what was once a close relationship is very difficult, especially when one spouse may not be playing fair. Taking a measured, cool-headed approach to your online footprint can in theory mean the difference between positive outcomes and less-than-desired consequences. Divorce proceedings should be used as an opportunity to take pause, making the conscious decision to put your best foot forward and protect yourself in the most contentious of times.