Digital Divorce: Managing Family Logins and Passwords
In a previous post, I talked about the digital assets (books, music, movies, etc.) that you, your spouse and your children may own.
Those are a type of asset to be assigned, divided, or shared as a result of divorce that are starting to be included in the process.
Another aspect of your digital lives is that you and your spouse may need to continue to share access to certain online accounts, even after your divorce. Potential accounts include:
- Checking, savings, and credit card accounts. Electronic access to statements and transactions; automatic bill payment services.
- Investment accounts. Regular and IRA accounts; pension accounts.
- Life, home, auto insurance.
- Medical insurance.
- Medical and pharmacy records. Your own, your children’s records, perhaps even your pet’s veterinary records.
- Government sites. Department of motor vehicles, property tax, etc.
- Your children’s school system. Access to class information, grades, sports schedules, communication with teachers and coaches.
- Your local library system. Tracking what’s been checked out, by whom, and when it needs to be returned.
- Netflix/Hulu/Redbox movie entertainment.
- Family email accounts. If you and your spouse share an email account.
- Billing and payment sites for all kinds of products and services. Including mortgage, utilities, cell phone, cable, Internet, grocery store, retail stores, etc.
- A shared Google calendar to coordinate the kids’ activities and appointments and family commitments.
- Online (“cloud”) photo storage and document sites. Family photos, important documents and other files.
- Miscellaneous sites supporting the household. Angie’s List, Amazon Pantry, Turbo Tax, pet food ordering, etc.
Sharing or Transferring Online Accounts in Divorce
As with many technology issues, the law has yet to catch up with this aspect. In particular, there are no specific guidelines for sharing accounts or establishing consequences should your former spouse deliberately change a password to lock you out of a shared account.
As you proceed through the divorce process, you and your spouse must work together to decide which accounts you both will need access to, especially those connected with taking care of your children. Depending on the account, you may need to:
- Share a single login.
- Set up separate logins to access the same account.
- One of you creates a new, separate account in your own name.
The First Step: Use the Same Password Management Tool
One of the most useful software tools available today are those that help us manage the overwhelming number of account logins and passwords we all struggle to track. If you are not using a password management tool now, I strongly recommend you and your spouse pick one and begin to set up your respective password databases. Whether you are sharing accounts or not, managing your own personal digital footprint is very important.
Each of you will have your own private password database (encrypted for security) in your own copy of the app. Each of you can store info about your shared accounts in your own database.
Another option is to create a third shared password database, assuming the tool you choose supports this (as eWallet does, described below). This database would contain just the logins and passwords that you need to share during and/or after the divorce. You each would have a copy of this database in your password tool. Then, if either of you needs to change the password on a shared account, you update this database, make a backup of it, and then email it to the other person. Your individual password databases remain private.
It’s essential that both of you use use the same password management tool on your own computers, smartphones, and/or tablets.
Popular Password Management Tools
This PC Magazine list provides comparisons and reviews of ten tools to manage your passwords. Some offer versions for PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices so that you can have access anywhere to this critical information.
While eWallet isn’t listed in that survey, I highly recommend it. (Here’s a review of eWallet.) This is the tool my husband and I chose several years ago, and we are very happy with it. It’s easy to use and also allows you to safely store critical information such as Social Security and passport numbers.
Document the Online Accounts to Be Shared
It would be a good idea to list in your separation or divorce agreement the account names and associated web site names (URLs) that the two of you agree will be shared, why, and for how long.
Prepare Your “Digital Legacy”
Whether shared or unique to you, your online accounts will outlive you. Your estate documents should contain digital legacy instructions. What happens to your secure accounts after you’ve died? These instructions are a way to transfer your logins to a trusted individual in the event of your death or incapacitation. Also, a few of the password management tools linked to above include a transfer method that supports that goal.
Prepare Your New Digital Life
Divorce is difficult enough without having problems getting access to the information and resources you need. Taking the time now to select and use a password tool to organize your online accounts will help smooth the way.
Resources About Digital Accounts
These sites provide excellent advice about how to have your online accounts handled after your death, which is something to consider when you change your will after your divorce. It’s also critical to consider some of this advice about how to have someone manage these on your behalf you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to do so after your divorce.
- “Manage What Happens to Your Online Accounts After You Die.
- “Digital Assets Addendum to Will–Basics.” Free to create a digital assets addendum; a nominal fee to actually be able to print and download it.
- Google’s Inactive Account Manager: Google monitors activity on any accounts you have with them. You can set a timeout period, alerts, whom to notify, or optionally delete the account.
Photo credit: CanStockPhoto
About the Author: Mary Anne Shew is a business consultant and leadership coach, writer, content marketer, and blog manager. Her clients value her unique blend of techonology and people skills to assist them with business issues. For more information, please visit BizVitality.com.