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Tackling your debts

What to do if your partner is in debt

Posted 04 September 2016

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Are you worrying about your partner’s unmanageable debts? Read on to explore the steps your partner can take for a future free from debt.

A debt crisis can often bring about feelings of hopelessness and embarrassment. For some people, getting help may be easier said than done. 

If your partner is struggling with unmanageable debts, it can be a stressful time for the whole family. It can put a strain on relationships and you might find it even impacts on your ability to enjoy life to the full.   

It’s important to address the problems before the debts spiral out of control. And it's re-assuring to know that not only is there plenty of expert help available, but there’s always a way out of problem debt, however hopeless the situation may seem now.  But how do you convince your partner to tackle the debts head on?  

 

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Reach out for help

We understand how falling behind with payments can affect your health and wellbeing. It can seem easier to bury your head in the sand and hope that the problem will somehow go away. But debt problems won’t just resolve themselves, especially if it’s got to the stage where a number of payments have been missed. 

For some people, the sense of embarrassment can prevent them from talking about their issues. But talking through your debt worries can help you cope with the financial pressures on your relationship. It’s important that your partner knows they’re not alone. No matter how unmanageable the debts have become, there’s plenty of help available.

Change your budget

Money struggles can affect all areas of life. It can cause arguments in a relationship, especially if the other person feels a sense of guilt or blame. And even though the debts may not be directly attached to you - you may be feeling the same financial worries as your partner. 

When faced with problem debt, it’s best to address the money issues with your partner. It may be that you can agree to makes some changes to your budget together to help you get your finances back on track. With some tweaks here and here, you may just find that you can cope with the repayments. 

If budgeting isn’t going to help, then a debt solution may be the best option. Our advisors can offer your partner help and support - they’ll take them through their income and expenditure to see exactly how much you have coming in and out of the household. They’ll also want to get a good idea of your personal circumstances and plans for the future. They will then talk your partner through the options and recommend a debt solution that fits their circumstances.

Creditor contact 

If your partner is being chased for repayments by lenders, it’s important not to get overwhelmed. Ignoring letters and phone calls will only make the situation worse. The longer you leave it, the more interest and charges can mount up.  So, hard as it may be, the sooner they take action the better.

If the situation continues and your partner misses several payments, they could end up defaulting on the debts. This means that the creditor considers the agreement to be over and they can then take legal action to recover the money. It will also make it harder, and more expensive, to borrow money in future.

Although it can seem that the debts have spiralled out of control - the situation can always be resolved.  If your partner is not comfortable speaking to the creditors, it may be time to speak to a debt expert who can deal with the creditors on their behalf.

What do I do if there’s a knock on the door?

If your partner misses between three and six payments on an account, creditors will usually issue a default notice allowing them to take further action to recover the debts. From this point, you might find you start to receive letters from a debt collection agency or even get a knock on your door. 

If a debt collector turns up at your door, remember they are not allowed to harass you or your partner. They don’t share the same legal powers as a bailiff and don’t have the authority to force entry into your home – they must leave your property if asked to. It’s important that you know your rights if faced with a debt collector, our blog can give you more information on this. 

Joint Debts

If you’re tied to you partner financially, it’s possible that you’ll be affected by their debts as well. This is because when you take out a joint credit agreement with somebody both of you are liable for the full debt, not just half.  So, if the other person can’t pay - you agree that you’ll pay off the full amount owed. 

If you have any joint accounts like a loan or overdraft, and you don’t keep up with the payments this will affect both your credit histories. That’s why it’s best to seek help if the repayments are getting too much for one or both of you.

Credit card accounts can’t be taken out jointly. The primary cardholder, who signed the agreement, can authorise someone else to have a second card and use the account. This means, if you’re the secondary cardholder on your partner’s account, you’re not legally responsible for the debts.  

What help is available?

If you and your partner are finding it difficult to cope with your debts, there are various debt solutions available that can help. Sometimes creditors agree to reduce your partner’s monthly payment to a lower level they can afford. There are also solutions that can provide partial debt write-off or even write the debt off completely. Which solution is most suitable for your partner will depend on their personal circumstances – make sure you speak to a debt advisor to find out which one is best. 

No one should feel alone when faced with unmanageable debts. Encourage your partner to reach out for expert debt advice using the options on the left of this page – and you can both look forward to a future free from debts and financial worry. 

 

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.