January has long held the unofficial moniker of ‘Divorce Month‘ due to the customary influx of new divorce enquiries following the Christmas holiday season.
2022 was a year of great technological change for the divorce courts in England and Wales with the move to online divorce proceedings through the court’s new online portal. Yet, while technology is helping to modernise the process of divorcing, it can also present challenges for the couples who are looking to separate.
With most of us now heavily reliant on technology in our everyday lives, it’s no surprise that couples become digitally linked in all sorts of ways, yet I often advise clients who have not considered the various ways their digital lives are intertwined with their ex-partner, or how this information could be used against them during the divorce, or afterwards.
It is essential that individuals seeking a separation or divorce from their partner take steps to protect themselves, their privacy and their personal information, including online.
How can you protect yourself when going through separation:
Change your passwords on all your online accounts, including email, social media, phone, online banking/payments platforms and any apps, and ensure they are not changed to anything your ex-partner could guess. Also turn off any autocomplete or ‘remember me’ functions on all web browsers you use.
Create a new email address for legal correspondence to make it more difficult for someone to access your messages, and to keep all correspondence about your divorce in a single location for ease of reference.
Auto syncing of devices should be turned off from all devices to ensure information (e.g. photos or documents in the cloud) is no longer automatically uploaded to any shared accounts or devices.
Remove personal documents and files from any shared devices and disable any shared calendars.
Disable any ‘find my phone’ apps to stop your ex from being able to see your GPS location.
Delete any unfamiliar apps and software in case there is tracking or monitoring that you are not aware of.
Change the passwords to any doorbell cameras and CCTV at your property so your ex cannot log in or monitor the feed.
Change the password to your Wi-Fi router if your ex has moved out. This is especially important if you have concerns that there may be monitoring devices in the house or you are worried you might have missed some devices which need to be disconnected.
Review all your social media privacy settings and do a general audit of your posts. Consider making your photos and posts private; you may also consider removing friends or restricting access to particular information if you are concerned about information being passed on to your ex. If your friends are avid social media users also consider speaking to them about what and how they post about you.
Don’t post anything about your separation or any legal proceedings on social media. As cathartic as it may feel to get things off your chest, this can cause a lot of animosity and you could be breaching privacy laws or find yourself facing civil proceedings. You could even find your posts being held against you in any future proceedings, especially those involving your children so it’s best avoided altogether.
Try to agree ground rules with your ex for social media and your children about what will and will not be shared about the children publicly or to closed groups of friends. If you can agree this at the outset it should hopefully save any disagreements in the future.
There are many reasons why it is important for individuals to be tech-savvy and protect their privacy and information in this digital age. Separating couples need to be especially mindful that their ex-partner may look to take advantage of any information they can access. It is essential that individuals take appropriate steps to ensure they disentangle themselves, both physically and technologically, when separating.
Naomi Hayward joined Furley Page in 2008. Naomi has developed a strong practice in all aspects of family law which includes: Asset protection on relationship breakdown, Complex child related disputes, Collaborative law, Pre and post nuptial agreements, Applications to remove a child from the country and specific issue applications.
Naomi has a particular specialism for complex, high net worth financial matters and complex child arrangements and disputes.
Naomi recognises that leaving a relationship is difficult and can have devastating effects on the whole family. She is committed to finding constructive solutions that help clients separate with dignity.
Naomi has access to experts who can assist when required, such as accountants, financial advisers, pensions experts, therapists and trusts lawyers.
Naomi also became a collaborative lawyer in 2014 meaning that she is able to offer clients an alternative method of resolving family disputes rather than the traditional method of solicitors’ correspondence and court proceedings.
Collaborative law involves the parties and their collaborative lawyers having informal discussions and joint meetings for the purposes of settling all issues in a dignified and respectful way. This is a non-confrontational approach with an aim of achieving family led agreements that suits you and your family to help couples remain as amicable as possible.
As well as being a member of Resolution, Naomi is active throughout the Resolution organisation both at a national and regional level. Naomi currently sits as Vice-Chair of the Kent Resolution Committee and as a member of the National Resolution Wellbeing Committee.
Naomi divides her time between the Canterbury, Chatham and Whitstable offices and is available at all three sites.