For many of us, email is a primary method of communication for everything from connecting with family members and friends to running our businesses and talking to our children’s teachers. Email can be super helpful in your divorce, too. For example, in a child custody proceeding, emails between spouses over a lengthy period of time can show evidence of a pattern of one parent being unreasonable or disrespectful. Judges don’t like treatment of this sort – it’s counterproductive to coparenting and, combined with other factors, its presence can sometimes lead to a change in custody, or to the court allowing one party to make certain custody decisions without the participation of the other spouse.
But email can be damaging in a divorce action too. If you are not careful, email can be prejudicial to your case and cause serious issues. We’ve compiled a few tips to keep you on the right track – a path toward a divorce that minimizes exposure and maximizes the probability of a successful outcome.
- Change your passwords: If you haven’t already, change the passwords for your email accounts. Hopefully, you don’t have a spouse that would snoop – but you can never be too careful. If you used a password that your spouse knows or could guess, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable. Besides, it’s always a good idea to change your passwords every so often anyhow, right?
- Turn off ‘auto save’: If you are still residing together (lots of people do until their divorce is final, since rents and mortgages – especially in urban areas – are so high). If your password pops up when you log into google or another email site, you should turn that feature off. While you’re at it, turn off auto saved passwords for everything – financial institutions included. To disable saved passwords on Chrome, go to the option menu by using the button on the far right of the browser toolbar. Choose the Settings menu option and click Show Advanced Settings. Then in the “passwords and forms” section, click the manage passwords link. From there, hover over the site whose password you’d like to remove and click the ‘x’ that appears.
- Use personal email address: It might be convenient to email from a work address, but it’s really not a good idea for a number of reasons. First, your work product and probably your computer all belong to your employer. Clearly, your emails aren’t confidential. Ultimately, management could read them – they aren’t private!
- While we are on the work email topic: Work emails (especially if you own a business that your spouse may have an interest in) could be ‘discovered’ — usually through a subpoena. In other words, your spouse and/or his/her attorney could end up having access to emails you’ve sent from this address.
- CC’ing third parties: When emailing with your lawyer, it may be tempting to copy (cc) your friend, parent or other important person who’s helping you navigate the divorce process. Don’t do it. While your communications are protected (private) by attorney-client privilege, your loved ones are not covered by that same privilege. Meaning, if your divorce becomes contested or litigated, those emails may ultimately get into the hands of your ex.
**Please note that this article pertains to existing California law and is meant for informational purposes only. Please do not make decisions that will affect your future based on things you’ve read in this post. Instead, consult with a Certified Family Law Specialist, like those of LFLG – or any other you prefer – but be sure to seek out sound legal advice that pertains specifically to the facts of your case.