Twenty-One Actions You Need to Take to Protect Yourself BEFORE Filing an Arizona Divorce
Establish a new separate email account. Your password should be something your spouse can’t guess. You’ll need this email for communicating confidentially with me as your attorney.
Do not make any comments on Facebook, Twitter or other social media about your marriage or your spouse. Avoid emailing or texting anything to friends of family members, as these communications are not privileged and can be used against you in court.
Avoid posting anything that you would not want a judge to see in your case or that could be twisted and used against you by your spouse at trial.
Get your own cell phone, separate from your spouse’s plan.
Get a private Post Office Box for personal or private mail. Put in a forwarding address with the U.S. Postal Service (cost is $1.00).
Pay off separate credit cards with funds from your joint bank account.
Make a copy of all data on the hard drive of your computer. You don’t know if your spouse may delete everything. Don’t save anything on the hard drive that could be twisted or used against you later.
Open a separate bank account at a different financial institution. Change any direct deposits to be deposited into your new bank account. Have statements sent to your separate mailing address or sign up for online statements only.
Do not access any of your spouse’s accounts using their login credentials, even if they gave them to you earlier. This can constitute a violation of federal and state law, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. §1030, and can subject you to civil and criminal penalties. It’s better to request or subpoena the information in the course of the divorce case.
Change all of your passwords for every online account you have, including your phone voicemail and screen lock feature. (Don’t use anything your spouse knows as part of your new passwords, e.g., children or pet names, birthdays, etc.)
Move valuable jewelry, collections or other items outside the home, where your spouse cannot access the property. Possession really is 9/10ths of the law many times.
Plan ahead – your spouse could raid checking, savings and line of credit accounts. Speak with me about options and strategies, depending on your unique situation.
Obtain an extra set of car and house keys. Keep the extra keys in a safe place – not in the house, your car or on your person (e.g., purse, backpack or briefcase).
Remove all personal diaries and calendars from the house. Put them in a secure place outside the home, where your spouse cannot access them. If you can, obtain copies of his calendars and diaries.
Start a file for the following personal documents for you, your spouse and your children: birth certificate, passport, social security card, and other valuable documents.
Put some cash in safe place – not in the house, your car or on your person.
Open a new credit card account. Have statements sent to your separate mailing address or sign up for online statements only.
Get employed, if not already employed.
Quietly and carefully, determine what major necessary expenses you can undertake now, before a Petition for Dissolution is filed. This includes house repairs, car repairs, dental work, eyeglasses, etc. Use a joint credit card or your spouse’s credit card if possible.
Keep your own counsel. People often want to share with friends or family what is going on, but this can boomerang. Your friends or family may try to intervene to “save your marriage” and reveal confidences that you’ve shared with them that could hurt your case. They often repeat what you’ve told them to other friends, family or spouses. This does not help your case, and often hurts.
Practice constant vigilance. Take a picture or write down the return address and name on mail from banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions so that this information can be requested or subpoenaed in your case.