Upon the breakdown of a relationship or marriage, there are any number of things to consider, including financial arrangements, arrangements for any children, living arrangements and potential divorce. It is therefore hardly surprising that protecting one’s online accounts is not the first thought in someone’s mind when separation occurs.

In this modern age, where so much of our personal information and lives are conducted through online accounts, it is important to consider how separation may affect this. For instance, on the most basic level, does your now ex-partner still have the password to your social media accounts, or are you logged in on any of their devices? What may seem like a trivial issue in terms of the breakdown of the relationship as a whole can actually have a huge impact on a couple’s ability to resolve their affairs amicably. For example, many people assume that their ex-partner would not look at their emails or messages on social media accounts, however, all too often it is during the emotional turmoil of a separation that people do begin to spy on their partners. This is particularly the case if there is suspicion of adultery or one party is hoping for a reconciliation. Such a breach of trust may hinder any future negotiations with regard to the separation.

The easy way to prevent this problem from occurring and the first thing that anyone going through a separation should do is change their passwords – the most important password to change is your email. This is vital as when you try to change passwords to other accounts, a new password is often sent to your email. Once the password to your email is changed, you can then proceed to change other passwords without fear that the new password will be discovered by your partner. Prior to changing your email password, ensure that you are logged out of your email on any shared devices or devices that your partner may have access to, for instance, family iPads or a shared computer.

It is also important to remember, that whilst you and your ex-partner may no longer see eye to eye, they most likely still know the answers to the majority of the security questions which are intended to protect any account from being hacked in to. Therefore, when changing a password to an account it is worthwhile to also change your security questions. Be mindful when choosing a new password that you do not choose one which your ex will easily guess, for instance your child’s name, and ensure that you use a combination of numbers and symbols to make the password as secure as possible.

There are many devices that now automatically sync with each other – for instance keychain on Apple products will ask on each device if you want the password to be updated on that device when you have changed it on another. So prior to changing any passwords, make sure that you are only logged in to your Apple ID or iCloud account on devices which your ex does not have access to.

After your emails have been secured, it is time to move on to your bank accounts. With the majority of people banking online it is important to check that your bank accounts are secure and that the password is not saved on a computer or device which your ex might have access to. It is equally important, however, that if there are any joint accounts, you both have equal access to these. It is often the case that one party takes financial responsibility throughout the relationship and the other may not always have the passwords to accounts which they are named on.

It is also good practice to clear your internet history on any devices which your ex-partner might have access to. This is particularly important if you’ve been researching divorce and separation, or divorce lawyers or even potential new homes. It is never a good start to a separation for your ex to find out your plans through your internet history. Again, watch out for linked devices as some Apple products will sync internet history on multiple devices.

Lastly, whilst it is important to protect yourself from the wandering eye of your ex into your emails it is equally important that you do not try and access your ex’s online accounts. It is a crime to access anyone’s emails, even if they have previously given you their password or their consent to log in to the account. This is a crime under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 which can warrant sentences of up to 12 months.

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