Technology has transformed our lives beyond what even George Jetson might have guessed, and that includes life during divorce and child custody disputes. According to Dallas family law attorney Aubrey Connatser, “If you’re planning to divorce, don’t underestimate the power of technology before, during and after the divorce process. While plenty of useful online tools are available today, many of these same tools may put you and your family at risk.”
Do (Cautiously) Turn to Tech to Connect and Organize
On the upside, technology can help simplify your life and connect you with helpful resources and support, especially if your support system (family, friends and support groups) doesn’t live nearby.
Today, it’s easy to login – whether by smartphone, tablet or PC – and find support groups in your area or seek emotional support from friends. (Just be careful what you share with the world. More on that below.)
There are also apps, social networks and websites available that may help you:
- Manage, track and pay child support: SupportPay.
- Store divorce-related documentation: The Divorce Log.
- Communicate and share photos and a calendar: SquareHub.
- Communicate, share info and track expenses: 2Houses.
- Communicate, share medical/school information and a calendar: BothParents.*
Some Judges Mandate Tech Tools During Custody Disputes
Our Family Wizard* is an online managed calendar many family courts recommend (and some judges order) when the divorcing parties have children. Parents, their attorneys, as well as amicus attorneys who advocate for the children’s best interest, may be given access to the calendar as well.
As Aubrey explains, “Along with being a helpful co-parenting tool, where you can track expenses and record and stay informed regarding medical appointments, extracurricular activities, travel and the like, Our Family Wizard allows parents to communicate in a controlled environment that is verifiable.”
While you can reschedule appointments and events, once you post an item on the calendar, you can’t delete it, and any changes made are recorded permanently.
“The records stored in Our Family Wizard and similar tools can also be helpful following divorce, especially if you want to pursue a child custody or divorce modification, because you have an ongoing, verifiable record of the parents’ communication,” Aubrey says.
Uh Oh, What Is Shared to the Cloud, Stays in the Cloud
Clearly, shared calendars can be invaluable to divorced parents who want to stay organized and manage their kids’ activities. However, old calendars the family shared prior to divorce may present another problem.
If you’re relying on an old calendar that you and your former spouse shared on the Cloud, you may want to cut your ties.
As Aubrey cautions, “Everything is backed up in the Cloud. So if you shared an account with your spouse for phones, tablets and/or PCs, he or she will have access to any information you shared in the past or future on those accounts, even if you get a new phone.”
Be Careful, Your GPS Enabled Devices May Put You at Risk
Your spouse may also try to access your accounts, other privileged information and even your location through the children’s or other family members’ shared devices. Any apps or auxiliary devices (e.g. fitness trackers) that include GPS tracking, even the GPS tied to a vehicle you bought together, could put you at risk, especially in cases of domestic abuse.
When enabled, apps such as Find My iPhone or Find My Friends allow people connected with you to monitor your whereabouts and track you down. If your spouse is elusive, your attorney may even use these apps to pin down their location and serve divorce papers.
“My advice to anyone who is planning to divorce, is keep your phones separate. Don’t have a sharing plan, and don’t be linked to anyone, even your kids, because any of the information you want to keep private, including privileged information you share with your attorney, is potentially available to anyone else with access to your Cloud,” Aubrey says.
Protect Your Email Correspondence from Prying Eyes
Email is another technological necessity, but email accounts you and your spouse established together, or gave each other access to at some point, can be problematic, especially if you’re not technologically savvy.
According to Aubrey, “Even if you change your passwords, there may be preexisting settings you forgot (or don’t know about) that allow your spouse to have access to your emails. Whether the account was also tied to his or her phone or alternate email address, or an auto-forwarding rule was applied, your supposedly confidential information may not be so private after all.”
While you can’t delete your old email accounts when you know litigation may be imminent or is pending, you could open a new account for privileged communications.
“During divorce litigation or in anticipation of litigation, you can’t destroy evidence, which is what you would do by shutting down an existing email account. I tell clients to keep an eye on the old account, and give me and other confidants a different email address that is secure,” advises Aubrey.
Manage Your Online Reputation, Too
As Aubrey has mentioned in earlier posts (see below), what you say, do and share, and what others say and share about you on social media, can be held against you in divorce and child custody disputes.
Consequently, it doesn’t hurt to scour search engines for mentions of your name. If you find something unsavory, you could take steps to have the mentions removed if they are untrue. If they are true, at least you and your attorney won’t be blindsided during divorce proceedings.
“Along with social media, there are other types of online postings, reviews and comments out there. If your case ends up before a jury, you should also expect someone on the jury is going to Google you, they’re not supposed to, but you’re not always going to get 12 jurors who follow all the rules,” Aubrey says.
Don’t miss Aubrey’s helpful advice about social media in these two earlier posts:
Turn to an Experienced Divorce Lawyer and Tech Expert for Advice
According to Aubrey, “It doesn’t hurt to consult a technology expert when you’re going through divorce. If you’re not technologically savvy, and you’re going to use tools and devices that are sharing enabled, or your spouse (and other family members) previously had access to them, you should educate yourself regarding what the technology is capable of doing and what sharing really means.”
In addition, speaking with a reputable family law attorney who understands the pros and cons of technology during divorce can work in your favor. He or she can explain to you what steps you should take to keep your privileged information secure.