Part 1: Protect Your Information
Regardless of where you are in the process, it’s never too late to take steps to protect yourself. When you’re divorcing or in a custody dispute, it can affect the rest of your life.
Each of these suggestions should take about 15 minutes to start. Some may require more time to fully complete. Ready to get started? Let’s dive in…
- Grab a notebook. Put all your notes related to your case in the same place: important dates, questions to ask an attorney, advice you want to remember, documents your lawyer asked you to provide, hearing dates, etc. Then you will know that it’s all there (somewhere). Plus, when you finish things, you can cross them off your list and who doesn’t feel good doing that?! I recommend a paper notebook like the old “memo” books unless that won’t be safe or secure in your current situation. If you prefer electronic methods, create a single place where you can store all your notes, important dates, and other information about your case.
- Change your online passwords. Just. do. it. We all know we should use complex passwords, change them frequently, and not to reuse the same ones over and over again. The problem is, does anyone actually do it? Despite significant security measures taken for work, in my personal life, I certainly didn’t for years. I strongly recommend a password manager like 1Password or LastPass. The program generates complex passwords for you and remembers all your login information – you just have to remember your “master password” or use facial ID to log in. Remember, if you share an account and changing the password will limit your spouses’ access or notify your spouse of the change, you may not want to change that specific account yet. And don’t let your internet browser save your master password!
- Stop posting on social media. (Yes, I really mean it.) You may think it’s private, but it’s not. Check your settings and limit the ability to view your profile, posts, and the ability to post on your pages or tag you in a photo. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in court over someone’s post or even a “checked in” at a location – people who took their kids out of state for a brief vacation can look like they are kidnapping the children, you’re out drinking with friends during your custodial time, you’re bragging about a great job you just landed, or posting photos without turning off your location services before taking the photo. You don’t have to delete your profiles or stop being on the app, but be very careful what is posted and ideally, just don’t do it. Please.
- Sign up for USPS Informed Delivery. It’s free! The post office has a free service that will scan the envelopes that you will be receiving and email them to you. This is especially important if you are in the early stages of separation, currently living together, your ex still has a mailbox key, or you were not the one who handled the finances. You can’t legally open someone else’s mail – but you can at least see what banks, credit cards, and even retirement statements are coming in the mail – and make sure you don’t have any of your own mail mysteriously disappear. Note: if you have been accused or have any sort of restraining order, you will not want to do this as it could be mistaken as a form of stalking. Another option is to file for a Change of Address. It costs around $1 online and you won’t have to rely on your ex to provide you with mail (or not). Just make sure not to select the family option which will unintentionally forward your ex’s mail as well.
Remember – every situation is different! Before starting, consider what is safe for your specific situation, especially if you currently reside together, there is domestic violence, or you share accounts and changes will notify or impact your spouse. The idea is to inform and protect yourself, not to harm the other person.