With the start of another year comes the beginning of a new chapter and for some people, it can also mean the fresh start they need to separate from their partner. The first Monday of January is even dubbed 'Divorce day' by legal firms who say they see a surge in enquiries after the holiday period.
If you and your partner have recently decided to end your relationship, you’re bound to have a number of things to deal with. But one thing you should make a priority as you begin working through this process is your finances and how you’re going to cope with them once you’ve separated. Here are a few things for you to bear in mind.
When it comes to your mortgage, make sure that you speak to your lender and discuss your situation with them. If you have a joint mortgage, you’re both equally liable for the whole loan, so you’re going to have to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to managing the payments for this. This is especially important as falling behind on your payments could damage your credit history and your ability to borrow again in the future.
If you’re staying in the house and your partner is moving out – or vice versa – you’ll need to look at getting their name taken off the deeds, otherwise they could have a claim to the property.
The same applies if you’re renting a property and both of your names are on the tenancy agreement, as you might want to arrange to continue the tenancy in your name alone. Don’t make any rash decisions though – you should only do this if you think you’ll be able to afford the rental payments by yourself.
Joint bank account or loans
For any joint bank accounts or loans that you have with your ex, make sure you contact your bank or loan provider and explain your current situation to them. You’re each equally liable for the entire debt when it comes to a joint loan or bank account, so it’s important that you discuss how you’re going to handle these payments.
If you have ongoing joint commitments (like a mortgage) you could decide to keep your joint bank account open for now. But bear in mind that both you and your partner will be able to withdraw money from the account, without the other’s permission. If you’re worried about this, you can ask your bank or account provider to freeze the account – this means you’ll both have to agree when you want to ‘unfreeze’ it again and what to do with any Direct Debits or standing orders that you have.
To close the account, get in touch with your account provider but make sure you’ve moved your Direct Debits or standing orders into another account or cancelled them altogether.
If you and your ex-partner have pension schemes in your names, make a list of all of the different pensions you have and find a copy of the rules for each scheme. Whether or not your pension funds will be divided between you both will depend on your individual situation, including where you live and the pension providers’ terms and conditions.
In England, Wales or Northern Ireland, when you’re dividing up your finances the total value of your pensions is taken into account. This includes not only what you’ve built up during the marriage or civil partnership, but before or after you’ve separated as well, excluding the State Pension. In Scotland, only what you’ve built up during your marriage or civil partnership is taken into account. The process for dividing up your pension can be complicated, so talk to a financial advisor to make sure you know what to expect.
Going through a divorce or separation can be difficult, so if you’d like to receive support during this time, information is available at Relate.org.