How to Navigate Finances After Ending a Relationship

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Breakups are always hard, but if you’ve been sharing finances, it can be even more difficult to negotiate the separation and recover financially.

If you’ve been living together and sharing those expenses, things can get even more complicated. Unless your breakup is timed with the end of your lease, you will still be responsible for paying the remainder of the lease. It can be even more complicated if you purchased a house or condo together.

Breakups happen for all sorts of reasons, perhaps a job transfer can be the reason you have to make a difficult decision. While you may think it’s easier to go through a breakup if you aren’t married, you do not have the same protections as a married couple though you may be facing similar problems to the financial ones caused by a divorce.

Here’s how to navigate a breakup and emerge with your finances intact.

Close Your Joint Accounts

First, you need to close down any joint accounts that you shared. Unless you were married, you should have kept separate accounts, and just had a joint account for household expenses.

However, if you and your partner did combine accounts, you need to close all accounts and divide the money you contributed to a savings account fairly. Keep in mind, if you have automatic payments or direct deposits synced with those accounts, you will need to change them.

This can be difficult if you are not separating amicably, but it’s a very important step in the process.

Choose Who Gets the Apartment or Condo

If you are renting, you will need to determine what to do about your apartment lease. For an apartment lease, you can either buy it out, and split the costs, or see if the apartment will let you transfer it to one person’s name for the duration of the lease. You do not want to leave your name on anything if you are no longer responsible for the payments. You also want to be sure the utilities are transferred to the name of whoever will stay in the apartment. Not doing either of these things can seriously damage your credit in the long run if one person fails to pay the bills or lease.

If you own a home together, you may decide to sell it and split the proceeds or one person may choose to buy the other out. This means that the person who keeps the home will refinance it in his or her name only, and pay a certain amount of the equity (usually half) to the person vacating the home.

However, if one person wants to buy the home but cannot qualify for the mortgage on their own, then you should sell the home and split the proceeds.

Divide Up Your Stuff

If you both came to the relationship with items such as furniture or pots and pans, whoever brought the items should get them. If you purchased the items together, sit down and split the items up.

If you have a difficult time discussing this rationally, you may want to hire a mediator to facilitate. This process is similar to what would happen if you were to file for a divorce. The mediator can help you compromise and work things out fairly.

Split Up Joint Debt

If you have credit cards, car loans or other debt together, you will need to split it up, as well in the event of a breakup.

First, you should decide who is responsible for what, and then have each person refinance the debt in his name only so that the other partner is no longer responsible for it. If you cannot refinance a loan because of poor credit, then the item attached to it should be sold and applied to the debt.

For example, the car should be sold to pay off the car loan if the loan is on both your names and one partner cannot afford to refinance it. Credit card debt needs to be divided and all joint accounts shut down. Otherwise, you will be held responsible if your partner defaults on payments.

Start Over

Finally, you will need to find a new place to live, come up with a new security deposit, and perhaps even buy furniture and other necessary household items.

You also need to begin planning your finances on your own again. This is a good time to set up a new budget that allows you to get out of debt and start working toward your financial goals.

The next time you start a new relationship, you may want to consider keeping your finances separate and operate on a shared household budget until you get married. This will make any future breakups easier to deal with.

Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.