Most people approach divorce by looking for information on how to prepare for a divorce from the point of legal divorce advice and, sometimes, financial advice. However, there is an area of preparation that is often overlooked: online accounts and padigital locksswords.

Below I discuss some areas of concern related to passwords and online accounts  if you’re preparing for a divorce.

Safeguarding your online presence and access can seem like a cumbersome and tedious task.  For most of us, getting online is such a routine that we may not be aware of exactly how many time we visit a site, check our emails, access our bank accounts, etc.  But as tedious as this may seem, this should really be an indispensable step in preparing for divorce so that you can safeguard your information and your communications.

Where to start

Start right at home, specifically with your computer and other devices you often use at home. What you may have to do will depend on whether you use a family computer or one that is just yours.  It also includes tablet and your smartphone if your children and spouse have access to them.

PCs are a little easier to take care of if you’ve created profiles for each family member.  Such profiles keep the specific information for a profile safe from access by anyone with access to the computer.  For example, on PCs you can create a Guest profile for use by anyone visiting your home. If any guest needs access to your computer, they would use the Guest profile, which lets them use the computer but not have access to your information on that PC.

The goal here, at a minimum, is to change the passwords to access your profile on a PC, and limit (or eliminate) access to your tablet and smartphone. Depending on what you typically view and save on your computer, you may have to access other files on your PC; and you may need the help of a computer technician if you’re really worried about what to look for and safeguard.

Banking online

Safeguarding online access to bank accounts can present a challenge, depending on whether the account is joint or individual.  For joint bank accounts, you may be able to safeguard your own access but the reality is that in joint accounts, the other spouse will also have access via their own online banking access.  A good practice is to keep separate accounts, regardless of whether divorce is a concern.  For these separate, individual accounts, change the password if you’ve provided it to your spouse.

Social Sites Access

No discussion of divorce would be complete without a discussion about social sites accounts.  But in this regard, I am referring to access to your account, not what you should or shouldn’t post, which I’m not addressing here.  For example, Facebook keeps a history of all your searches unless you go into their setting and clear the history of all searches you’ve ever done.  Anyone who gains access to your Facebook account can see the searches you’ve conducted.

If you don’t remember when was the last time you changed passwords to your favorite social site, now is a good time to do so.

Password Do’s and Don’ts in a Divorce

Hopefully, you stopped using your birth dates as part of a password a long time ago, including birth dates of children, godchildren, nieces and nephews etc.  In the context of divorce, you should also stay away from using things like the place you first met your spouse, your favorite flower, your engagement date, or (most obviously, I think) any reference to the date of marriage.

The concern with passwords is usually targeted at preventing hackers from accessing/stealing your information online.  But, in my opinion, anyone trying to access your online information without your permission would qualify.

Until recently, the advice on passwords was to use all kinds of funky strings, including symbols like $%*, etc.  As it turns out, this is no longer necessary, and it cuts down on your going crazy to create memorable yet strong passwords.

Instead, the new advice on how to create strong passwords without you having to resort to head-scrambling efforts.

As a divorce lawyer, I make it a point of discussing this issue with my clients from the very first contact, but this is something you can take care of on your own before you even see a lawyer.


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