In the technology age, the majority of the communication we do is either through email or text message. Most attorneys use email to communicate with their clients as it keeps a record of all communication and allows the attorney to keep the client constantly up to date regarding their case. Additionally, many spouses or co-parents communicate via email and these emails can come in handy throughout your family law case. While emails can be helpful to your case, they can also be used against you down the road so paying attention to what you say and how you say it is just as important as ensuring the privacy of your communications. We will discuss tone and content of communications next month when we explore custody evaluations and co-parenting.
There are some things you can do to ensure that your emails stay private, unaltered, and out of the hands of the other side.
Change your Passwords: Changing your email (and other account) passwords should be one of the very first things you do after the separation/divorce process begins. Whether or not you believe your spouse is the type to go digging, it is good practice to change your passwords to something they would not be able to guess.
Use Personal Email Addresses Only: Many people use their work email for everything, but this is a bad idea. In most cases your computer and email account belong to your employer and your employer generally reserves the right to access those things at any time. This opens up any private email communication to being viewed by your employer/management— meaning they will not be considered confidential. Additionally, these emails could be subject to a subpoena by opposing counsel. Therefore, use your personal email account and email your attorney from your phone or private computer only.
Do Not Copy Third Parties on Attorney-Client Emails:It may seem convenient to copy your real estate agent or mother on an email to your attorney to keep them in the loop or bring them into a thread so that they can weight in. Do Not Do It. Third parties are not covered under by the same privilege that you are, and not only could these emails be discoverable by opposing party, but the third party could be called to testify regarding any communications for which they were involved.
Be Careful with Reply All: Many attorneys BCC their clients on emails to opposing counsel to ensure they know what is going on with their case. While typically the BCC function ensures that the person cannot reply all, sometimes things happen. Make sure that only your attorney and their staff are copied on any reply emails. An inadvertent disclosure of a private email to your attorney could waive the privilege of that communication.
Pay Attention to the Cloud: If you and your spouse/partner share a Cloud account or Apple ID, immediately get a new account. The last thing you want is your personal email communication to your lawyer or another third party funneling into a shared Cloud account where your spouse or partner can easily read then and print them.
-This post is meant for informational purposes only. Please consult with an attorney before taking any actions based on the information read in this post.