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Separate shared accounts online to protect privacy during divorce

When ending a marriage, Virginia couples should take steps to protect personal information online by establishing individual accounts and updating passwords. Divorce can inspire feelings of jealousy, resentment and suspicion, and angry spouses may react by prying into their partners' personal lives or attacking their reputation on social media.

Prevent a former partner from regaining access to accounts by transferring important files to personal gadgets and wiping any saved information, such as browsing history and credit card data, from shared electronics. In addition, while many couples view sharing passwords as a sign of trust, changing login information during or after a divorce dispute may prevent spouses from spying on or hacking into personal accounts.

When splitting from a possessive or distrustful partner, one source also recommends checking electronics for hidden spyware or key-logging programs that secretly track personal data, such as password changes. Spouses are usually knowledgeable about each other's family background and recreational interests, so individuals may also need to choose a new set of security questions to safeguard confidential information.

It might also be in a person's best interest to cancel or separate joint accounts for online services, such as Netflix, Amazon and Facebook. Incriminating social media posts are increasingly being used as evidence in family law cases. Maintaining joint access gives spouses a direct window into each other's social lives, purchases and media viewing activity. A study conducted by Pew Research Center estimated that 11 percent of couples share a social media profile, and entertainment media accounts are even more likely to be used by an entire household.

In addition to taking such steps to protect important digitally stored information and online privacy, a person involved in a contentious divorce might also benefit from working with a family law lawyer. The lawyer may be able to provide advice and representation throughout proceedings.

Source: USA Today, "Divorcing? 5 things to do online now", Kim Komando, July 11, 2014

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