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The impact of digital data during property division

Even after extensive media coverage of computer and email hacking, many Texas residents still believe that they are able to permanently remove information from their computer or other device simply by hitting the "delete" button. That can come back to bite them during a divorce, when many spouses take an aggressive approach toward mining for information during property division. Understanding how digital data is stored and potentially retrieved is critical to some spouses.

To begin, let it be said that no one should take steps to intentionally conceal marital assets or otherwise improperly influence the property division process. That said, many people feel strongly that their personal use of computers, tablets and/or cell phones should not be dragged into the divorce process. However, a spouse who is preparing to file for divorce can easily hire a professional to extract data from a digital device.

Divorce often brings out the worst in people, and an angry or embittered spouse can use personal or private information mined from a computer or cell phone to harm or embarrass a soon-to-be ex. Avoiding this outcome requires a degree of advance planning. That includes taking steps to ensure that there is no risk of having one's online activities exposed to the world.

Texas spouses who would like to learn more should begin by contacting a divorce attorney. Attorneys are accustomed to dealing with issues of digital data storage, and can refer clients to technology professionals who can assist. A fair property division outcome should be the goal of every divorcing spouse, but there is no need to invade someone's privacy and expose them to risk of embarrassment or harm in the pursuit of that goal.

Source: The New York Times, "In a Divorce, Who Gets Custody of Electronic Data? The Lawyers", Jonah Engel Bromwich and Daniel Victor, Oct. 31, 2016

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