The damage your ex can do - to your finances

Updated: 

man woman hands holding broken...

When your other half is bad with money, you're well aware of the financial problems it can cause you. However, you'd be forgiven for thinking that once the relationship is at an end, you'd be out of the woods. Unfortunately, for a surprising number of Brits, their ex's money problems come back to haunt them.

New research has revealed that one in five have seen theirs or their partner's credit rating take a nose dive as a result of the relationship.

Financial links

The research, by Experian, found that one in eight people say they have been impacted by a current or former partners' bad credit rating, while one in twenty admit that they have had a negative impact on their partner's credit worthiness.

This will happen when you share financial associations - such as a joint account or a mortgage - it means that your credit reports become linked, so that when you apply for credit, lenders will see not only your credit report, but also the financial links to others.

Therefore your credit worthiness could be based on not only on how well you have managed your finances over the last six years, but also how well your partner has managed theirs.

Your ex

While that may be something you are willing to take on the chin while you are together, it might come as a surprise that it is often having an effect long after you split up - because financial organisations still think you are connected.

A fifth of those impacted by financial associations believe that they found it more difficult to get a mortgage as a result of their partner's or ex-partner's poor credit rating, and when they were successful in securing a mortgage, they were charged a more expensive interest rate as a result.

Some 22% stated that they have been unable to get a loan for the same reason and nearly a quarter found getting a credit card more difficult or expensive.

What can you do?

There is a way to break the link in financial records - called financial disassociation - which lets lenders know that a couple should no longer be seen as 'a couple'.

Yet the Experian CreditExpert research found that 24% of people had no idea what a financial disassociation was - and only 3% of people had ever applied for one - which suggests that many people may still be financially linked to others without even being aware of it.

Peter Turner, Managing Director at Experian Consumer Services, UK & Ireland, says that disassociation can make an enormous difference when your ex is holding you back financially, and that: "If the mortgage is the only remaining joint debt with your ex-partner and you've lived apart from more than six months, you can still ask us to break the link between your credit reports. The effect of this will be to stop any information about your ex affecting your credit rating in the future which can be a big step in moving forward."

He adds that for many people the best approach is to think very carefully before you allow your finances to be linked with your partner's, saying: "Talking about finances can be an uncomfortable subject for many but setting up joint finances can be one of the biggest commitments you can make in a relationship. Few of us will have a perfect history of managing our finances but by addressing your financial circumstances and your credit history upfront together, at the very least you could save any nasty surprises further down the road such as being turned down for credit you really need."

He recommends five steps you ought to take if you are considering joint finances:

1. I do...do I?

The first step in setting up joint finances is deciding if they are the right choice for you and your partner. To better understand the impact joint accounts could have on your future credit worthiness, you will need to review your own credit report to get a complete overview of your own credit history.

2. Take your time...

Take the time to review both your credit reports, ensure everything is accurate and up-to-date and if you dispute any information, contact Experian to raise a dispute who will work to resolve it with the lender in question. Explain which entry is inaccurate, and what's wrong with it.

3. What's your score?

Your Experian Credit Score is a guide that will help you understand how your credit history is likely to be viewed by lenders and will also help you both understand if one partners credit history needs a little work before any joint credit applications, such as a joint mortgage.

4. A helping hand...

If you have a less than perfect credit history, the Experian customer service team will help you identity ways in which you can improve your score and the picture your credit report paints of your financial situation. Making little changes to improve your credit report can make a big difference, not only getting in getting credit but also to the interest rates you could be charged.

5. Full disclosure

If your financial situation changes, make sure you keep your partner informed before it becomes an issue. If one or both have had trouble managing your finances and debts are a real struggle, get free, confidential advice from organisations such as Citizens Advice, StepChange or National Debtline.