Can you place a lock on your home PC pending a divorce?
I will answer this question for the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah), but my answer is likely correct for most jurisdictions (check with an attorney in your particular jurisdiction to be sure):
Yes, UNLESS the court has previously issued a valid order barring you from placing a Lock on your PC.
Bear in mind, however, that just because you placed a lock on the PC or installed other security measures on the computer to prevent access to its data, that does not mean that you can hide that data forever. If a court orders you to release the computer (or in these days, your password for access to your cloud drive) to your spouse’s expert for the purpose of inspecting and/or copying the hard drive/cloud drive, the court can do that, and if you refuse to comply with the court’s order you can be held in contempt of court, which could lead to fines, jail, denying you the opportunity to present certain evidence or any evidence in your case, or the striking of your pleadings and the entry of default judgment against you.
Note also that if you have incriminating/adverse evidence on your PC(s)/cloud drive(s) and are thinking of wiping them to keep that evidence from your spouse or the court, that’s illegal. Not only illegal but often extremely difficult to truly delete permanently. So if you try to wipe the data and get caught, that’ll likely get you in trouble for “spoliation of evidence”.
See Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 37(e)
(e) Failure to preserve evidence. Nothing in this rule limits the inherent power of the court to take any action authorized by paragraph (b)* if a party destroys, conceals, alters, tampers with or fails to preserve a document, tangible item, electronic data or other evidence in violation of a duty. Absent exceptional circumstances, a court may not impose sanctions under these rules on a party for failing to provide electronically stored information lost as a result of the routine, good-faith operation of an electronic information system.
Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 37(b) provides:
(b)(1) deem the matter or any other designated facts to be established in accordance with the claim or defense of the party obtaining the order;
(b)(2) prohibit the disobedient party from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses or from introducing designated matters into evidence;
(b)(3) stay further proceedings until the order is obeyed;
(b)(4) dismiss all or part of the action, strike all or part of the pleadings, or render judgment by default on all or part of the action;
(b)(5) order the party or the attorney to pay the reasonable costs, expenses, and attorney fees, caused by the failure;
(b)(6) treat the failure to obey an order, other than an order to submit to a physical or mental examination, as contempt of court; and
(b)(7) instruct the jury regarding an adverse inference.
If you try to wipe the data, get caught, and the data is recovered, not only will that get you in trouble, but you will have made such illegal efforts in vain, AND the fact that you tried to hide/destroy it will only intensify the court’s suspicion and animus toward you and damage—potentially fatally—your credibility.
Bear in mind that hacking your spouse’s passwords can be (and usually is) illegal:
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277