Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I have some debts,
And they’re joint debts with you.

With all the love in the air today it is important to consider your joint finances…and more importantly your joint debts.

Debt worries are one of the biggest factors that contribute to a relationship breakdown. According to the Money Charity the average total debt per household was £57,578 in November last year.

You may have entered a relationship with personal debts or accrued debt together by paying for that romantic trip abroad with credit for instance.

It’s so easily done, especially with the pressures and social hype that comes with Valentine’s Day. But with Council Tax set to rise and money already tight for most, debt worries can become a very big issue especially if you bury your head in the sand and don’t speak to your partner about them.

In this post we will cover five common partner debt worries and how to deal with them as a solid couple.

1. Unmanageable debt but my partner doesn’t know

Being in debt can be very stressful. Most wish to deal with the problems solo; partly because of embarrassment and partly because they do not wish to face up to the matter. The stress can lead to wrong conclusions and put strain on a relationship.

Seeking help and talking to your partner may seem like a daunting task but it will almost certainly help lift the burden from your shoulders.

It is so important to speak to your partner if you can. Sit them down, apologise for not telling them about the problem sooner and that you’re serious about dealing with your debts. Getting the support from your partner will alleviate the burden and you can both tackle it together.

Go through your finances and work out who you owe money to and how much. You can seek advice from the Money Advice Service or speak to us.

2. We have joint debts but my partner refuses to deal with it

When you’re in a relationship the chances are you share finances and therefore get joint debts. Sometimes you’re left in a situation where one of you refuses to deal with it.

Not everybody has the confidence to deal with money issues. There might be underlying issues, such as mental health, that could be making the situation worse.

Try to be supportive of your partner and talk through the situation. Tackling debt issues together will be less stressful. Making clear strong points to help them understand the effects of the problem will help. Reassure them that together you’re stronger and will deal with the problem quicker and stop making it worse.

3. I don’t want to pay my partner’s debt

It is a difficult situation and a somewhat grey area. Your partner accrues some debt and you don’t want to help to clear it. Legally you are not obliged to take on half of your partner’s debt – it is your choice.

However, the issue with a partner’s debts is that they will ultimately affect your relationship and the household.

Discuss the situation and agree how best to deal with it. If you have bought items together it might be fair to share the debt. If your relationship becomes more serious you may feel it more appropriate to help to clear the debt together.

We find partners to share our lives together, so it makes sense to share the burden of debt and household finances.

4. Taking out a loan to help with my partners debt

Using loans to consolidate debts can be a good way of clearing debts if you can afford to do so. If your partner has taken out a loan then it is fair to say that you should contribute to the repayments. One thing to bear in mind is affordability.

Consolidating debts may feel like a relief because you have one monthly payment. However if you fail to keep up with that new repayment you’ll be back to where you started plus you have the interest to consider too.

It is always best to discuss this with your partner first before plunging yourself into more debt. You should also look at all your options by searching online or speaking to a trained advisor.

5. How to tackle half of the debt when you break up

Our final common partner debt concerns what happens if you break up, which is a bummer to discuss on Valentine’s Day!

When it comes to who is responsible and liable for the debt, there are clear definitions of who owes what debt, for example:

  • If you’re the main credit card account holder and you added your partner, they’re not legally obliged to make repayments.
  • If you take out a loan for a joint purchase (i.e. a car) for your partner they are not legally obliged to pay anything towards the debt.
  • If you take out a debt together in both of your names you’re both legally liable to repay the debt.

If you unfortunately separate it is important to discuss what debt you have and identify which ones are joint and not.

If you have a joint debt and your ex-partner doesn’t keep up with the repayments the creditor will chase you for all the outstanding debt. Equally, if your ex-partner used your credit card as a named individual they’re not legally obliged to pay you anything.

Banks need permission from both of you to close a joint account so this is something else to consider and sort as part of the break up. Your credit score may also be affected by joint debts but we have a useful guide on how to unlink your credit file from an ex-partner.

If all is amicable you may be able to agree to help each other out, but unfortunately relationships aren’t always black and white and easy to resolve!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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