How to protect your finances during separation if you were cohabiting

As soon as it’s clear that you’re going to separate from your partner, there are important steps you may need to take to protect your finances. If your break-up is acrimonious, you may have to act quickly. Find out what you need to do.

Protecting the rights to your home if you own

Your rights to the property you’re living in depend on:

  • who owns the home
  • whether you have made payments towards the mortgage or other costs
  • whether you had an agreement that you would be entitled to part of the property

If the property is in both your names, you should check how it’s owned. If you own it between you as ‘joint tenants’ – or as ‘joint owners with a survivorship destination’ in Scotland – you may need to change the type of joint ownership. This is so your ex won’t automatically inherit your share (and vice versa) if you were to die.

This is a complex area, so take advice from a solicitor who specialises in housing rights or in relationship breakdown of cohabiting couples. Alternatively talk to an adviser from a housing rights charity.

For contacting a solicitor, check our guide Your options for legal or financial advice on separation.

Contacting your mortgage provider

You should speak to your lender if the mortgage is in both your names or if it’s in your name alone and you think you may struggle to meet the repayments. Explain what has happened and discuss how you’ll manage the mortgage repayments.

If you have a joint mortgage, you’re both equally liable for the whole loan. If you don’t keep up your mortgage payments it could damage your credit rating, which could make it harder to borrow in the future.

Read our guide Protecting your home ownership rights during separation.

Contacting your landlord if you rent

If both your names are on the tenancy agreement, you or your partner may be able to arrange to continue the tenancy in one name alone. If only one of you is on the agreement, your rights to do this will depend on the type of tenancy agreement you have.

For more information, read our guide Protect your rights to your home during separation – renting.

Contacting your bank, credit card and loan providers

If you have joint accounts or loans with your ex-partner, you should contact your bank or loan provider to explain what has happened. This is especially important if your break-up isn’t amicable.

With any joint loan or overdraft, you are each liable for the entire debt. You should ask your bank to change the way any joint account is set up so that both of you have to agree to any money being withdrawn, or to freeze it.

Be aware that if you freeze the account, both of you have to agree to ‘unfreeze’ it. This may be a problem if your ex-partner doesn’t want to co-operate.

Make sure you stop any wage payments from going into your joint account if you’re worried that your ex-partner won’t agree to you taking out this money.

Second credit cards on your account

If you have a credit card account and there’s a second card for your partner, you will be responsible for paying for their spending as well as yours.

You should either ask your partner to give you the card back, or contact the card company and ask them what you need to do to block the card or remove your ex-partner from your account.

Your next step

Depending on whether you own or rent your home then you can choose one of the options outlined above. Otherwise, read our guide Sort out joint bank accounts, insurance, bills and other finances with your ex-partner.