Shared digital/online accounts is another tech-related area that may present concerns over privacy and trust during a divorce.
The number of shared accounts, from family cell phone plans to streaming movie and entertainment accounts, has skyrocketed in the past decade. At some point during a divorce proceeding, either you or your ex-spouse may insist on separating cell phone plans and such, but your accounts are still under contract for a period of time.
Mobile Phone/Tablet/Wireless Accounts
Many online accounts will be easier to separate, but some may require a complete disconnection of services. Take mobile phone/wireless plans for instance. These plans and contracts can be difficult to separate since most plans are under contract for two years and you face penalty fees if you break the contract early. Additionally, with a shared mobile phone plan, it’s easy to access the shared account minutes, text, data streaming, and picture messaging – meaning each partner can monitor the other persons’ mobile activities. You have two options here:
- Break your plan and pay the penalty to maintain both control and privacy of your own mobile activity.
- Come to a pre-determined agreement with your ex-spouse on how to handle family usage of the plan and payment of the bill for the duration of the contract.
Most divorcing couples choose to end shared plans, even if there is a penalty for early termination of a contract, because of the privacy and peace of mind it offers both in the short and long term. Remember, most smartphones and tablets can be locked and unlocked via a passcode. While no one wants to think it, some ex-spouses may attempt to install spyware to follow your mobile activities. Change your passcodes and/or set a log-in to your device with a passcode to lock it when not in your use.
Other Online Shared Accounts
Outside of mobile phone plans, there are other online shared accounts with limited costs and no long-term contract – think of services like iTunes, Netflix, Google Play, Gmail, Dropbox, Shutterfly among others. Separating couples, whether they’re separating for a period of time or permanently in the process of filing for divorce, should review each service to determine if a shared account makes sense to maintain given the circumstances.
Just as with the mobile phone plans, these other shared accounts should also be discussed with your ex-spouse to determine the protocol for bill payment (if there is a cost associated with the account), user agreements, and/or the immediate or future termination of the shared account. No doubt these may be tough conversations to have with your ex-spouse and there may be no easy answers. However, both parties must find an amicable solution that fits the changing status of the familial relationship.
Shared Accounts Usually Mean Shared Passwords
Whether you choose to continue to share accounts or not, your ex-spouse may know your usual go-to passwords. Think of all the accounts your ex-spouse might decide to access: your email, social media sites, credit card accounts, etc. If you are filing for divorce or are ready for separation, it’s best to change your passwords to something your spouse won’t know or be able to guess and do this before your privacy can be compromised.
A final note on disconnecting or changing online services – if your employer, family, and friends or children’s school and teachers connect with you via any of the shared account(s), be sure to get in touch with them early on and let them know the best way(s) to reach you. It’s all too easy to lose contact phone numbers, emails, addresses, important appointment dates, and the like in the process of changing or disconnecting online accounts. In cases of emergency, they may have no way to get in touch with you. Take the time to connect with them, update your new contact information as needed to avoid any concerns or issues down the road.