After several months of COVID-19 quarantines, company shutdowns, and disruptions that touch upon almost every aspect of your life, it is reassuring to know that Virginia is moving in the right direction as far as getting back to normal. The Virginia Department of Health has set the state to Phase Three, which means many businesses are open with guidelines in place. For parties going through the divorce process, courts are transitioning toward routine operations. There may be some delays in scheduling over the next few months, so a final divorce decree could be further off than you originally expected when filing your case.
In the meantime, delays could also mean that both parties may have increased access to computer equipment, online profiles, and some accounts and services. Either spouse could run into legal trouble by overstepping their bounds, and some forms of misconduct can even be criminal in nature. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind some Do’s and Don’ts from a Virginia divorce attorney regarding internet privacy issues.
DO change all passwords and other identifying information. Unless you are dealing with an asset that is jointly held, you should update all passwords for social media, email address, online profiles, your computer, mobile devices, and related materials. You should even double check your bookmarked and any favorite sites that might auto-fill your password when you arrive on the page. Plus, whenever possible, use a two-step verification process to prevent unauthorized access. Even if your spouse tries to gain entry to an account, he or she would need a second authorization.
DON’T be tempted to breach your spouse’s privacy. If you know the passwords or other credentials related to assets owned by your spouse individually, refrain from using them to gain access. There are ways of tracking your activities, at which point your spouse could bring the divorce court’s attention to your misconduct. As you can imagine, divorce courts do not look favorably upon this kind of behavior. In addition, you could even face criminal charges under Virginia’s law on identity theft. You might be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony if your unauthorized access results in a financial loss of $1,000 or more.
DO adjust your social media use and privacy settings. You might consider avoiding social media entirely during the pendency of your divorce case, but doing so is not always possible. Therefore, make sure to change your privacy settings on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms. You should only allow friends and direct connections to view your content, tag you in their posts, and otherwise engage with you online. Note that making this adjustment will NOT prevent people from accessing your photos, videos, and posts, since anyone can take a screenshot or share your content. However, changing privacy settings will impose limitations.
DON’T lash out in written form. No matter how frustrated, angry, or disappointed you may be during the divorce process, avoid using the internet or other online channels to express yourself. Your texts, emails, private messages, and social media posts can be traced back to you. A moment of rage could lead to problems when it comes to child custody and visitation if your message is inappropriate.
DO check shared services and archived storage. If you share accounts on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, or other marketplaces, you should immediately shut them down and arrange for individually owned profiles. An aggrieved spouse can rack up thousands of dollars with just a few clicks, using a credit card that was stored in your account.
DON’T indiscriminately delete content. It is tempting to delete the picture of you doing shots at a party five years ago, since a judge might feel that this conduct reflects poorly upon you as a parent seeking custody. As damning as it may be, avoid getting rid of such content. You could come under fire for violating Virginia’s laws on obstruction of justice, a criminal offense. This information could be key evidence, so destroying it might be viewed as tampering.
DO Rely on Your Virginia Divorce Lawyer to Protect Your Interests
When you have a skilled divorce attorney on your side, you can feel confident that your internet privacy and other interests are adequately protected. For more information on the divorce process and how COVID-19 may affect your case, please contact our team at Roop Xanttopoulos Babounakis PLLC. You can set up a consultation at our offices in Northern Virginia by calling 703-442-0040 or filling out an online contact form via our website.
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- Virginia Child Custody Issues During COVID-19: Answers to FAQs - November 9, 2020