The information provided below is general in nature and should not be relied upon legal advice. You should call 03 5445 1000 and speak to a lawyer at OFRM about your particular circumstances.

Untying our digital knots

Untying our digital knots

Gone are the days when separation was as simple as going to the shops for milk and never coming back or just walking out the door.

In our modern digital world our lives are much more entwined and sometimes it takes a lot more unscrambling to go your separate ways.

These days, often the first priority when your relationship ends should be to sever the digital ties. Passwords, shared iTunes accounts, shared credit cards — you need to turn your mind to how to deal with all those different ways that your lives continue to be linked.

Where there is family violence this is an absolute must. If you think you are in danger, particularly if you believe your ex is stalking you online or tracking you through GPS you should seek immediate assistance from the police by phoning 000 or phone the Respect hotline on 1800 737 732.

In Bendigo through the organisations including Annie North, Centre for Non Violence and Wesnet there is world leading knowledge and skills around internet and digital family violence. We are fortunate that they share their knowledge and skills with us.

So, what are the steps you should take to end the digital relationship? Even if your separation is "amicable", it is still sensible to take some steps to protect yourself from at the lightest, the embarrassment and inconvenience of your ex pretending to be you online. While most people try to remain amicable, often that changes usually when a new relationship starts.

The checklist of things to consider includes:

  • changing your phone, computer and tablet lock codes
  • ensuring your iTunes account is no longer shared — this avoids not only the risk of being tracked but also revenge spending through your account
  • making sure your credit card details saved on your computer can't be accessed
  • I'm sure you have never told your partner your PIN but still worth changing, especially if it is something "guessable"
  • change your email password or better still set up a new email account
  • make sure there aren't old phones or iPads that could still have access to your emails
  • make sure your device is no longer linked so that Find My Friends or Find my iPhone can track you
  • review what other apps you have that use location services and assess whether that could potentially cause difficulties
  • change the passwords on your social media accounts

There are also some good practices around passwords that all of us should use but are especially vital when you separate:

  • use unique passwords for each account
  • use random passwords — I love diceware where you match a roll of die to a word
  • turn on two step verification — that's where there is 2 parts to logging in like a password and then a code texted to your phone
  • use a password manager — I love 1Password. You store all your passwords in the app and only have to remember one password to access them. The brain space and stress it saves is phenomenal and it makes the previous three items easier to implement.

The digital separation should also include the careful management of your social media:

  • be careful of oversharing, not just because social media posts could become evidence used against you but also because online communication can be easily misinterpreted
  • don't drink and post — make sure your judgement is not impaired when you jump online
  • review the privacy settings on your accounts — who is seeing your posts, your page, your personal details
  • think about apps where you "check in" — do you want others to know where you are or your patterns?
  • be respectful of your children and their other parent when posting. Do you agree that their photos and information can go online? Are there any limits you wish to implement regarding that?
  • remember that no social media completely disappears — would you feel comfortable if a judge/your mother/the town hall heard/saw what you were posting

And finally, while you might be keen to find love again, be sensible about diving into the world of online dating and swiping. After being in a relationship for a while, you might be a bit vulnerable to the online dating world. Also think about how you present yourself in those forums, be sensitive and protective about mentioning or including your children.

This might seem light a lot to do, or being a bit paranoid but taking these steps can avoid a lot of stress you don't need to incur.