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Split up with your ex? Tips to help you untangle your finances

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Three million UK adults split up from their partner in the last year but two thirds are still financially linked to them. Here’s how to successfully break up your finances.

Out of the three million Brits who split up from their partner in the past 12 months, 36% had a joint mortgage while 30% had a tenancy agreement in both names, according to research from the Debt Advisory Centre

In the majority of cases – 73% – one partner had to find a new place to live. In a quarter of cases, however, both partners had to find new homes.

Some 4% were forced to continue living together as joint mortgage and tenancies usually mean both parties are liable for the whole mortgage or rent payment.

As well as property commitments, many of the former couples had other joint financial arrangements, such as a credit card or loan in both names (19%), a joint bank account (19%) and shared assets such as a TV or car (12%).

Loans and overdrafts can also see both parties being jointly liable for the whole debt which can cause problems if one partner tries to walk away from the commitment. In contrast, with credit cards it is the first named card holder who is liable for all the debt.

Debt expert Melanie Taylor of Debt Advisory Centre said: “Relationship breakdown is a major cause of problem debt.

“Unpicking a relationship is fraught with difficulties and communication is often strained or non-existent. But couples do need to agree on who is going to contribute towards clearing debts and bills that were taken in joint names – whether that’s an overdraft or the mortgage or rent.”

Taylor warned that as long as the joint accounts remain open, you’ll remain linked – financially at least – by your credit histories. So how can you break up your finances for good?

Five top tips to untangle your joint finances

  1. Communicate – however painful it is you are going to need to speak to your ex-partner and work out how much each person is going to pay towards the shared bills.  Ideally put the arrangement in writing (via an email). Avoiding misunderstandings at this stage can help avoid missed payments that will damage your credit history.
  2. Look after you credit history – as soon as you’ve paid off all your joint commitments contact the credit reference agencies (Experian, Equifax and CallCredit) to do a “notice of dissociation” to separate your credit history from your ex’s.
  3. Cancel any extra credit cards – If you are the main card holder on a credit card contact your provider as soon as you split up to cancel the extra card. You don’t want your ex to go on a spending spree that you’ll have to pay for.
  4. Freeze joint accounts – If you have joint bank or savings accounts you should tell the provider that you’re splitting up and ask them to freeze the account. This will stop your ex draining the money from them.
  5. Explain the situation to your lender – If your ex doesn’t keep up with repayments they promised to make (and you can’t afford to make the payments yourself) then contact the lenders as soon as possible to explain what is happening. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, speak to a debt adviser who can negotiate with the lenders on your behalf.

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