If you have been reading any of my blog articles, you may have come across one (of several) where I talk about a desire to make copies of all the important papers of the relationship. In this day and age it is very common to scan documents and save them digitally. This not only makes it easy to save them, but also to send them to (say) your family law attorney. In this blog article I would like to talk about some things to think about when it comes to digital documents. I do not profess to being an expert when it comes to protecting your digital documents, especially when it comes to sending them via email, so do more research on these issues as appropriate.
My first “rule” if you will, when it comes to digital documents, is to make sure I have several backups made. This is less important if you still have the paper versions of the documents, but given the ease at making backups of digital documents, make more backups rather than less. This can be via some sort of “cloud” storage or on an external drive or USB drive. One mistake that you do not want to make is to save the backup on the same computer hard drive as the original digital copies. Should you do this, and the hard drive malfunction, then you could lose everything. I actually use DVD disks, USB thumb drives and several external hard drives for my document backups (this may be overkill for personal use).
Many family law attorneys really like having clients send them documents electronically. But talk to the attorney, or his/her support staff first. Depending on what you are sending them, they may want to sort the documents in a specific order before they are scanned – it can be a nightmare to reorganize documents if they are all lumped together in one file. If you are concerned about sending them by email (and not knowing who may see them on this trip via the internet) just put a copy on a USB thumb drive and take them to the attorney office.
In most of the bigger counties in the state of Washington, the Superior Courts require family law attorneys to “efile” almost all of the documents they place in court files. Because of this, each file has a “private” section for any confidential documents (that the public should not see). In theory this means that you do not have to “redact” (cover) any super private information. Sometimes the super private information is the part of the document that someone like a judge will have to look at, but sometimes not. A good example is a tax return. The important information in a tax return is the numbers and not the social security number of the party. Sometimes I will redact a portion of the social security number, on tax returns (of a portion of a bank account number) just to make sure the other side cannot misuse this information. This is something you can talk to your family law attorney about.
Lastly, be aware of what happens when you print, scan or fax documents. In todays world it is very common for these kinds of machines to be able to save an electronic copy of whatever was printed/scanned/faxed and you may not even be aware of it. As an example, I have my scanner programed to keep a digital copy of every document I print (via the scanner) on my computer hard drive. I do this to keep a record of the documents, but others (especially if the device does not belong to you) may get these copies and use them inappropriately.
This blog article is not intended to convey legal advice, but only address some of the general rules. Most legal issues, in family law cases, depend on the specific facts. Should you wish to discuss your particular situation with the Law Office of Thomas A. Chillquist, please call or email my office. I am a family law lawyer (divorce attorney) and I represent parties in family law, and divorce, matters in King and Pierce County, Washington, including Kent, Federal Way, Covington, Renton, SeaTac, Des Moines, Fife, Auburn, Seattle, Bellevue, Puyallup, Orting, Tacoma and Mercer Island. Copyright Thomas A. Chillquist