Ending a relationship is hard, but when money is involved it can be even harder. Find out what your rights are when you're going through a breakup.
Discussing financial issues might be the last thing you feel like doing with your ex, but if you can come to an arrangement yourselves, you could save a lot of money in legal fees.
You’ll need to consider:
If you can reach an agreement, then you should get it written into a consent order. This is a court-approved document you can use if the arrangement breaks down in the future.
If you can’t reach an agreement, here’s what you can do:
If you were married or in a civil partnership
When you decide to end a marriage or civil partnership, you might be entitled to spousal support immediately after separation. If you’ve not been able to agree on an amount between you then you’ll need to go to mediation to have what’s knows as a “mediation information and assessment meeting”. If this doesn't work, then you’ll be able to apply for a financial order in court. They’ll usually want to see proof that you’ve tried mediation first. This isn’t compulsory if there has been any domestic abuse.
If it looks like going to court is the only option, it’s important to seek legal advice first to learn your rights and how much it could cost. Look for a solicitor on the Law Society website or on Resolution - a site listing solicitors who specialise in family law. Many provide a free half-hour consultation.
If you’re now on a low income
After separation, you might find the money coming in each month isn’t enough to support yourself. If you relied on your partner’s income you could be entitled to financial help such as Universal Credit. Any benefit you might receive is in addition to any child maintenance which isn’t considered when benefits are being calculated.
If you and your ex-partner have children together
You and your ex-partner will have to share childcare costs. If this can’t be decided between you, then you can use the Child Maintenance Service to calculate how much should be paid, and how it's paid.
If you currently get Child Tax Credit, you’ll need to inform them of the separation on 0345 300 3900. If you receive Child Benefit, it can only be paid to one person, and this is normally the parent that the child lives with for most of the time. You can report your change in circumstances here.
Dealing with joint financial commitments
If your ex-partner is refusing to pay their share of a joint mortgage or other debt you should speak to the lender. They may be able to provide you with a payment holiday, but this will depend on the terms of your mortgage.
Try to settle and close joint debts when possible. Then you can write to the credit reference agencies to remove the association with your ex from your credit file.
For couples that were living together
If you weren’t married or in a civil partnership, your financial rights are reduced. The only legal requirement is that the costs of childcare are shared. You should still try to make arrangements with your ex-partner regarding finances and belongings. You could try mediation if you need further help.
Speak to a solicitor if you believe you're entitled to financial support from your ex-partner or for example you want to make a claim on the family home and it isn't in your name.
Relate offers a range of helpful articles as well as telephone and online counselling for those going through a breakup. Some of their services may be subject to a fee.