Don’t Let Breaking Up Break the Bank


By Katie McCaskey

A completely new you…without your partner?

Breaking up happens every day. Most break-ups have a financial component. Here’s how to get your money life back together:

Individually Held Finances

If you’ve kept your finances separate you’ve got some advantage. Or at least, you’ve avoided some potential mess. However, don’t be quick to assume you’re in the clear. Many couples keep separate bank accounts but end up accumulating accounts with both names. Some common ones are cell phone contracts, utilities and apartment leases. These are still connected to your credit report and credit score. Therefore you should examine and change everything necessary.

Remember: Even if you’ve kept your financial lives separate, you need to honor the financial commitment behind other jointly-held obligations. Most important of these are children. If not, you could go to jail.

It is important to be sure that you protect yourself. If you think your ex might be vengeful, be sure to change all your passwords, PINs, and other important banking information. It is always a good idea to seek the counsel of an impartial third party or arbitration service.

Jointly Held Finances

Separating jointly held finances can get messy. If your break-up is amicable, the best option is to split jointly-held accounts evenly. Yes, even if you are the partner who contributed more. Splitting accounts equally is a lot less painful when you’re ready to move on. It is also faster and avoids additional conflict. That alone is worth avoiding the fights that may occur from mean-spirited penny-pinching. Think of it this way: Even if your partner doesn’t “deserve” half, you’ve gained some peace of mind.

Unwilling to split shared accounts equally? Your first approach is to discuss who is entitled to what percentage. If you cannot agree, it is a good idea to collect documents supporting your contributions. It is also recommended that you find a professional arbitrator or other third party.

Depending on the state in which you live and the length of your relationship you may be entitled to a common law division of assets.

Bottom line? Do you homework, and be ready to come to an agreement about dissolving jointly-held financial assets. Enlist the help of a lawyer if necessary.


Marriage is the most official of all partnerships. Therefore it can contain even greater financial complexity. On the other hand, there are more legal protections associated with marriage that will protect splitting partners.

If you signed a pre-nuptial agreement you’ve already got a solid road map to follow. Still, there is no denying that emotions can overwhelm even the most level-headed people. As with the situations above you should do your homework, enlist a third party or lawyer, and commit to behaving as cordially as possible.

If your partner makes the majority of household income you may need to seriously evaluate the cost of your lifestyle. And both partners should morally and legally commit to financial obligations like children. Be sure to update your will, too.

Breaking up may break your heart but it should not break your bank. Your lifestyle and what you can afford may drastically change. Take the high road and hope that your ex follows your lead.



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