Open communication is key to a good marriage. Communicating openly and privately with your family law attorney is key to a good separation and eventual divorce.
Privacy Matters During Divorce
When you buy your ticket on the emotional roller coaster that is separation and divorce, you need to change some of your behaviors. You are no longer partners with your spouse.
Legally, under Code of Virginia § 20-106, you are opposing parties, no matter how seamlessly you separate, no matter how deftly you divorce.
You must be certain of attorney-client privilege. Your attorney will perform all due diligence to protect your privacy, but you have a role to play, too. You need to safeguard all your communications with your attorney from the prying eyes and perked-up ears of your spouse.
To ensure complete privacy in your emails, texts, telephone calls, and in-person meetings:
- Create a new email address unrelated to any shared email address you and your spouse may have established in your marriage
- Lock access to the new email address behind a strong and original password (see our thoughts, below)
- If necessary to preserve privacy, get a separate smartphone for the separation and divorce, so you have an exclusive number and a locked phone to use for talking to your attorney, investigators, or accountants
- Use Two-Factor Authentication, available both for Google and for Apple products, for as many of your devices as possible
- Write down not a single password, username, or“clever” reminder either at home or at work; Post-ItsⓇ on the frames of computer screens are the first place a snoop looks
Any device protected by a password and other security measures is, by law, legally off limits to prying eyes. The instant your spouse and a hired gumshoe gets into your password-protected smartphone, laptop, handheld device or computer, they have broken the law under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and state wiretapping laws, which your attorney’s office, if not specifically your attorney, will gladly add as criminal charges to any civil complaint.
Some family law attorneys have secure electronic client portals behind which you can store electronic documents needed for your separation and divorce. You can move to that secure site financial records, retirement account information, email evidence, and other materials your attorney may need. Locked behind your attorney’s security, those documents need not appear on your own devices.
The portal, in many instances, can also serve as a way to communicate with your family law attorney and the firm’s office staff.
Passwords Nobody Will Think Of
The most common password, still, on electronic devices, says industry leader PC Mag, is 123456. Some people have a learning curve that resembles a straight line.
You and your spouse probably share many common experiences that have given rise to easily hacked passwords:
- Birthday dates
- Children’s names
- Pets’ names
- Anniversary date
So while the password “May32012” helped you remember to send anniversary flowers on May 3 every year, it is a terrible password for securing information from your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
A good practice for making a nearly unbeatable password is to think of a personally meaningful phrase you can easily remember, then use every initial letter:
- Author Rupi Kaur’s phrase from “Milk and Honey” springs to mind: “Do not look for healing at the feet of those who broke you.”
- Taking just the initial letters, we get DNLFHATFOTWBY, a 13-letter cypher that is proto-adamantium to any hacker or your spouse
- Tack on a number or character such as ! or # for even beefier security
- Avoid writing down your memorable phrase anywhere it could be seen or decoded
Get to the Point!
In all discussions with your attorney, whether in person, on the telephone, or in writing, get to the point and stay on it. You are literally paying for every minute of your lawyer’s time, so why spend three paragraphs ragging on your spouse before offering up needed details about her adultery, for example?
At the same time, do not be so laconic that your meaning is unclear. Your attorney operates at your pleasure but must know what your pleasure is; if you want to fight over every inch of a property settlement agreement and are prepared to pay for that, say so. If you have evidence your spouse was siphoning off marital assets, present it.
Avoid using abbreviations, coded phrases, or ambiguous pronouns:
- “FYEO, they heard her say to him they were spending 4/2-4/9 in AUA but told me she w/ WV fam. Att.”
You’re not James Bond. Your attorney’s not with MI6. Spell it out:
- “This is confidential for your eyes only. My children casually mentioned to me that they heard my wife tell her lover they were spending the week of April 2 through 9 in Aruba when she told me she was visiting her family in West Virginia. I have attached copies of the credit card charge showing the airline tickets and resort reservations.”
At The Firm For Men we sincerely, perennially hope every Virginia divorce goes smoothly, with both parties agreeing 100 percent. The reality is, however, that never happens. Contact us for more ideas on keeping confidences, maintaining privacy, and communicating candidly with your family law attorney. You may also call our office at (757) 383-9184.