IMG 4612When you are in the middle of a divorce or separation everything you do is under a microscope, including online. You may not know it yet, but the privacy you thought you had is probably gone or soon to be under attack.

A divorce or separation is one of the most stressful times a person can possibly go through. Worrying about your password, shared or separate accounts, or even devices in your home is probably the last thing you want to worry about. Taking some steps at the beginning of what is about to be an arduous journey can go a long way to making the process easier.

Be sure to make three critical changes as soon as possible in a divorce, breakup, or separation.

Change Passwords

You may be unsure whether your soon-to-be ex does not know your passwords, but the odds are that they know at least one and maybe more of the important passwords you can use on a daily basis. Changing those familiar passwords can be a hassle, but well worth it, both to preserve your privacy and also to make the transition to separate accounts easier for everyone. Changing your online banking, cell phone account, and email passwords is critical to protecting your privacy during divorce. Who you are calling, what you are buying, and where you are going may seem innocuous, but is information that can be misconstrued, used to level allegations that may be untrue, and is just generally information that no longer needs to be shared. This will mitigate any potential damage caused by irrational behavior or emotion if your ex is curious or angry during the process or after.

1. Make a list of all the passwords you use personally, whether you think you shared them or not, change them, and and set up your own login to any that were joint.

2. If you and your spouse share online banking or other accounts, you should quickly set up your own login to your own accounts.

3. If you do not already, this is a perfect time to start using a password service to keep your passwords secure. 1Password and LastPass are examples of easy to use applications that store passwords and also will generate random passwords for you to begin using.

Taking these steps will allow you to have some peace of mind during what is a difficult time and allow you and your ex to start living separate lives — at least online.

Clean Up and Lock Down Social Media

Almost everyone has an online life to some extent. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are great for sharing memories in happy times. They can also be places where people vent and share day to day life. That photo a friend posted of you sharing drinks at the company party could be used out of context during your divorce. That tweet you made two years ago when you were in a bad mood could, too.

It is time to either delete old accounts and start fresh or lock down your current accounts and do some cleanup. Creating all new profiles and being intentional about what mutual friends you do or do not include, what photos your put on your new account, and locking the old drama out is a good idea.

If you are keeping your old accounts, it is time to do pruning of mutual friends you no longer need, old photos, and most importantly, making sure all your privacy settings are up to date. Be sure to clean up by deleting any potentially problematic or cryptic posts you may have made, no matter how long ago. You do not wants that photo from your friend’s bachelorette party where you had too many drinks to end up attached to a court filing about your parenting.

Even safer than new accounts or locking down your old ones is to take a break from social media by deactivating your accounts or making your entire profile private for the duration of your divorce.

Reset Shared Devices

If you have a shared tablet, phone, laptop, or other technology, this is the time to get what you want and wipe it clean. These devices likely have all of your passwords, browsing history, and other details you may want to keep to yourself.

Eventually you will need to decide who gets to keep what shared device, but before you get to that stage, be sure to back up what you want. If there are photos or data you think your spouse wants or if you are not sure, make a backup of those things for them so you cannot be accused of callously deleting memories. Once you have done these things, do a factory reset. This way the device starts out as fresh and does not carry anyone’s sensitive information during the separation or later.

You should follow this process with any device that saves data that you do not want the other person carrying with them now that you are separating. This includes obvious days like your financials. banking passwords, tax returns that you may have downloaded in the past, and so forth, but also not-so-obvious information like old emails, instant message history, or old photos you have moved to trash.

Following these steps can alleviate unnecessary stress and drama during the divorce or separation process.