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Protecting your electronic communications in a divorce

People are communicating less via telephone and more through text, e-mail and social media. The problem is that once something is in writing, it can be saved (even if you later delete it) and used against you.

Many divorcing couples learn this the hard way. To help avoid this problem, some couples are including a social media clause in either a prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. These clauses state that electronically-transmitted communications cannot be provided to others without the express permission of the person who initiated them.

If you don't have one of these clauses, it's never too late to be careful. Often, by the time people learn that their spouses are planning to leave, those spouses have already collected plenty of embarrassing information. Deleting all of this information once the separation or divorce process begins looks suspicious and isn't going to help you if your spouse already accessed it.

Most family law attorneys advise their clients to take a number of precautions to protect their electronic data, both to protect their financial and personal privacy. These include:

-- Stay off of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and restrict your privacy settings on these accounts.

-- Get a new email account.

-- Change your passwords and security questions/answers to ones that your spouse could figure out.

-- Turn off location tracking on all of your devices.

-- Keep your devices with you at all times. If you lend your phone to your child and your spouse sees one of your messages, it could be fair game in court.

Of course, it's essential to be careful about changing passwords and other access information for joint accounts with your spouse. If you have concerns that he or she will withdraw large amounts of money without your knowledge, talk to your attorney. You want to protect your assets and your privacy without running afoul of the law or doing anything that could cause more complications in your divorce.

Source: Forbes, "How Is Electronic Data Handled In Divorce?," Jeff Landers, Dec. 22, 2016

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