How to Protect Yourself Online When Dealing with Divorce

When contemplating divorce or going through divorce, you have more on your plate than perhaps ever before. Protecting yourself online is probably one of the last things on your mind, but it is so important! Not taking these steps puts you at risk for damaging your credit, increasing your debt, having your confidential information in the hands of your spouse or others, damaging your reputation as a parent, or you could even be handing over proof to the legal system that you are at fault in your divorce! Trust me, it’s worth the effort to lock down your online self!

  1. Change UserIDs and Passwords. Computer logins, appleIDs, emails, your personal bank and credit card accounts – each and every app, device and account you ever access with a login needs to be changed. Total pain in the arse I know, but do you want your spouse checking out emails between you and your lawyer or tracking your spending? Didn’t think so.
  2. Create a new email account. This adds an additional layer of security. It’s an account your spouse doesn’t know about, and you can keep all divorce related communications housed in this one place. It also has a side benefit of not having divorce related emails attacking you throughout the day!
  3. Stop Posting. Posting pictures on FaceBook documenting your party pics or hanging out with people or in places you wouldn’t want your spouse to see are a bad idea. You could literally be handing over evidence against yourself. Same concept holds true for Twitter and similar apps. Don’t think your spouse’s lawyer isn’t reviewing your social media accounts! This is a great time for a social media detox.
  4. Phone Tracking. Smart phones have done an amazing job of keeping families and friends in the loop of each other’s locations and sharing information. This is fine and dandy when that is what you want. I’m fairly sure this isn’t a great idea for those contemplating divorce or going through divorce! Remove your device and account information for all other devices that do not belong to you or that are not with you at all times. If you have an iPhone or iPad, changing your appleID is the first step!
  5. PIN Numbers. Add and/ or change them all now. This includes passwords to access voicemail, ATM machines, your phone and any accounts. If you do not currently have a PIN on your phone or voicemail, now is a great time to add it. Your spouse can probably access your voicemail accounts from another phone and get messages if you do not have a PIN. No lucky numbers, birthdays or “1234”. Be tricky!
  6. Electronic Document Storage. You may choose to keep important financial or legal documents electronically instead of just paper based. Keeping everything on an external storage drive that is password protected and kept in a safe place is a good option. Services such as Google Docs and DropBox are also viable options. Both services claim to be highly secure when set up appropriately. Password protecting, encrypting files and using the two step verification adds to your online protection. Read and follow the instructions and be comfortable with the terms and conditions before moving forward.
  7. Keep confidential info out of your emails. Whether preparing to divorce or not, keeping your social security number, credit card and bank account numbers and other sensitive information out of your emails is necessary. This is about more than your spouse finding information, this is about protecting your identity. Divorce is challenging enough without adding a stolen identity to the mix!

Is your password ‘password’  ?

When changing your userIDs and passwords, avoid the common traps that will leave the door open for your spouse to access these accounts. Your spouse likely knows your commonly used usernames and passwords — so time to get creative and create strong passwords! Keep actual words, children’s names and your lucky numbers out of the passwords. Use at least 8 characters and include symbols, numbers and letters with both forms of capitalization. Keeping track of these passwords is next to impossible without some help. Check out online password managers. Many password managers will also create secure passwords for you. If you choose to keep a hard copy, keep it in a safe that only you can access.

Beware of Changing Joint Accounts
Changing the login information on an account owned by you and your spouse will likely send red flags to your spouse. The company will likely send an automatic email or text notification of the change. The goal is to protect yourself – not lock your spouse out of an account. Also, beware of the message you are sending if your spouse doesn’t yet know you are looking to get divorced! You’ll want to contact each credit card company used for joint accounts and get their advice on how to handle that account based upon your situation and how the account is set up. Keep a close eye on the activity of these joint accounts while both spouses are using the card. You want to ensure cash isn’t disappearing or credit cards aren’t being maxed!

Taking these steps will help keep your money and information secure and will provide you much needed peace of mind. Not only does this help when preparing for divorce, but is also good practice for everyone at anytime. Much more valuable information on this topic and many others is available with your Untangle The Knot Service. Learn more!

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First Financial Steps When Preparing for Divorce

If you are contemplating divorce or preparing for divorce, getting your financial house in order is so important. It’s very common for one spouse to handle the finances and for the other to not have much knowledge of the financial situation. While this is fairly normal, it isn’t ideal, especially when heading into divorce. It is critically important that both spouses have a solid understanding and this begins with having access to all accounts, statements and documents. Plus assets can be hidden, debts can emerge and cash can disappear when the “D word” is uttered. Having at least three months of statements is helpful to ensure everything stays on the up and up! Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Gathering the documents listed below will not only ensure you have full knowledge of what you own and what you owe, but you’ll also be prepared to start doing the divorce financial planning.

  1. Tax returns – Most recent year for business and personal
  2. Paycheck stubs for both of you
  3. Checking and savings account statements
  4. Credit card statements
  5. Mortgage statements
  6. Insurance policies
  7. Investment and retirement account statements
  8. Home equity or other loan documents
  9. Your credit report
  10. Child or spousal support documents from a previous marriage

What if I can’t find it?
If you are the spouse who doesn’t manage the finances, unearthing all of this paperwork is no easy task.

Here are a few tips to help your detective work:

  • Call your accountant. He or she will have old tax returns as well as the supporting documentation. Be sure to advise them that you are requesting this confidentially if you don’t want your spouse to know you are contemplating divorce.
  • Contact the IRS. Visit www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get-Transcript to order up to three years of previous returns.
  • Contact your financial planner.
  • Go through your home office files.
  • Watch the mail to grab other documents you may not yet have.
  • Access online statements. As long as your name is on the account, you should be able to call to get a username and password if you don’t have one already.

What’s next?
You now have everything you need to not only start divorce financial planning, but also to ensure you have full visibility of your financial situation. This will prevent your spouse from getting away with any shenanigans. Hopefully this wouldn’t happen to you regardless, but it does happen. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Untangle The Knot will guide you through the next steps on understanding your current and projected financial situation, including considerations for decisions you will need to make and the financial gotchas to avoid. If you thought this was helpful information, sign up now for your Untangle The Knot service for immediate access to much more! You’ll also find helpful resources, including a financial checklist and toolkit, to make it just a bit easier to get your financial house in order! Check back soon for the blog on tips to safely store these confidential documents, and other important online security precautions to take before and during divorce.

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10 Things You Can Look Forward to When You are Single

Let’s face it: Divorce is a heavy and depressing topic. There’s no way of getting around that. But, there is a bright side. Being single for the right reasons, versus staying with someone for the wrong reasons, opens up a whole new world.

First, let’s consider the bad things you lose — all the minor annoyances that added up, from the toilet seat that was always left up or waiting on your spouse while she changed three times before leaving the house. The passive-aggressive behavior, fights about money, those certain family members you dreaded spending holidays with. Gone! All Gone!

Now, let’s talk about what you gain:

  1. Kid-free time. Of course, you love your kids with all your heart. And, at first, it may be hard to get used to not having them around every day or weekend. And then… Imagine waking up on a Saturday morning and having absolutely no obligations until Monday. The weekend is yours. You can sleep in, go to the gym, get a pedicure, meet a friend for coffee, take a long bike ride, hit the town or stay in. You’re not transporting kids to play dates or birthday parties. The movie Frozen is not on constant replay on your TV, and you can go out to eat in sophisticated adult establishments where mac and cheese and chicken fingers are nowhere to be found on the menu. You don’t even need to find a sitter!
  2. Your own money. If you want to buy another pair of black shoes to go with the other 12 pairs in your collection, there’s no one to give you a hard time about it. New golf clubs? No problem. Of course, this is not to say you should go on a crazy post-divorce shopping spree without paying careful attention to your budget, but, the bottom line is, it’s your budget. No one else’s.
  3. Self-discovery. The extra time in your life allows you to explore hobbies you’ve always wanted to try. You have the chance to discover — or rediscover– who you truly are outside of the confines of a marriage that may have defined you and your life for so long. When you open yourself up to finding your true self and to the possibilities of what could be, doors will open all around you.
  4. Freedom. This is your life. And now this is your opportunity to live it how you would like. During your process of self-discovery, you may find there are things you want to change. Have you been dreaming about a career change? Do you want to travel more? You have the freedom to achieve these goals.
  5. The “spark”. Remember those butterflies in your stomach and the thrill of the chase (or being chased)? The excitement of getting to know someone new and all the milestones that come with that, including the first kiss, weekends away, feeling like someone is genuinely interested in what you have to say, and yes… the sex. When you are living in a bad marriage, those special moments get lost in the daily grind of arguments and tension.
  6. It’s your home. Decorate how you want. Make it your safe place in the world. Bless someone else by giving away anything that doesn’t “fit” into your new world. I remember bringing decor into my new home from the old, and it no longer fit who I was. Out it went! While I still have furniture to buy, rooms to paint and walls to fill — my home feels so comfortable to me!
  7. Watch what you want. Ever get those snarky comments for watching football, Fox News or Grey’s Anatomy? The remotes are yours with no color commentary. Enough said.
  8. Be a better parent. When you’re in a difficult marriage, it can be so hard to be the parent you want to be. So much of your energy is being drained within your marriage, and it’s common for your relationship with your child to suffer. Parenting alone gives you an opportunity to be truly present with your kids and create a more connected relationship.
  9. You decide the menu. Couples often have different preferences when it comes to food. One person may be trying to live a healthier lifestyle, while the other is bringing home doughnuts. This can easily lead to resentment on both sides. You can now eat in peace!
  10. You can take off your mask. No more pretending to be the happy couple and to be somebody and something that you are not. You finally get to live life on your terms and in your truth.

Not being part of a couple can definitely take some getting used to. I’m not going to lie — you may feel lonely at times. And sad. Even unsafe. But, it’s pretty normal to have those feelings in a bad marriage as well. Start embracing the simple pleasures of single life and you’ll discover how good it feels to find yourself again.

What are you most looking forward to about being single?

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