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Too much debt to divorce?

Posted 15 November 2018

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How can you prevent debt damaging your relationship? And how can you avoid further money trouble when you make decisions about your future?

Money worries and relationship problems go hand-in-hand. How can you prevent debt damaging your relationship? And how can you avoid further money trouble when you make decisions about your future? These are hard questions, but you’re not alone.

Most couples argue some of the time. But problem debt, and other money worries, can cause particular tension. This is true no matter your income, but if you’re on a tight budget it’s sure to be especially stressful.

People with a lot of debt may try to keep it from their partner. This can result in a lot of stress as you try to keep up repayments on your own while keeping it quiet. And your partner could be very upset to find out you’ve kept something from them.

Many couples are concerned about joint debts, particularly when ending a relationship. Mortgages are probably the most common concern, but couples can accumulate all kinds of debt together during the course of a relationship. For example, we commissioned a survey back in 2015 about the cost of getting married. Almost a third of the couples we spoke to said they were still paying for their wedding six years after the big day.

And divorce and relationship breakdown themselves often lead to debt and financial problems. In the past we’ve found that one in 10 people seeking debt advice needed help because a relationship had ended.

Divorce can cost thousands in legal fees. And moving out of the shared home involves upfront costs. At the same time, your household income will go down. We understand why some people put off ending a relationship because they fear the change in their finances.

Metro recently shared a study we conducted back in 2014. It showed that 1 in 5 people (of 2000 surveyed) had stayed in a romantic relationship because they felt they couldn’t afford to leave. A quarter of people had stayed in these troubled relationships for more than three years.

The choice to end a relationship is almost always difficult and painful. But no-one should feel they have no choice but to stay in a situation that is making them miserable. You’re three times more likely to experience depression in an unhappy relationship, according to Relate. And if the relationship you’re staying in is abusive, your safety could be at risk. (If so, please seek help immediately. Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327.)

Don’t let debt trap you in an unhappy situation. Read our guidance on dealing with financial pressures while you’re in a relationship. If you’re thinking of divorcing or separating, you can find information here, including on how to sort out any joint debts, and an action plan here.

However bad you think your debts are, there is always a solution. You can see what options may be suitable for you here. Alternatively, the Money Advice Service also has information on the debt solutions open to you.

by Christine Walsh

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.