One in four face financial trouble following relationship split

27 Nov 2014

Britons are turning to credit cards, overdrafts and personal loans following a relationship break-up according to the findings of a new survey. As a direct result of a break-up more than one in four (28%) adults say they’ve fallen into debt, while one in six (16%) admit to asking a friend for short-term financial help following a break-up.

A survey of separated British adults, published this week by family law organisation Resolution finds that:

  • Three in ten (28%) say they turned to loans, an overdraft or in some cases increased credit card debts as a direct result of relationship break-up.

  • One in six (16%) admit that they’ve either asked or been offered financial help from a friend or family member.

  • Over a quarter (26%) had to move in with a family member or friend following a split.

The research, released today as part of Family Dispute Resolution Week, reveals that people with children fare even worse.

  • Over a third of separated or divorced parents (36%) report that they have needed to take out a loan or gone into debt to deal with the financial strain caused by separation or divorce.

  • Parents were also more likely to rely on family and friends for financial assistance, with one in five parents (21%) leaning on others for help, as opposed to 14% of childless adults.

Resolution chair Jo Edwards commented:

“These findings show the true extent of the damage that can be caused by divorce to people’s personal finances. Three in ten British adults need to take out a loan to cope with the cost of separation.

“Separation often causes huge financial pressures : finding two new homes, furnishing those homes, perhaps wanting to buy a second car, all from a finite pot of capital, not to mention the legal costs associated with divorce; and in income terms, having the same amount of income available to the family whilst potentially doubling the bills because of living in separate homes.

“That’s why Resolution members work with people going through separation to try to help them reach fair and lasting settlements, and in an amicable way that contains costs, so that they are able to move on with their lives more easily.

“Too many people enter into a divorce or separation process without a full understanding of the financial consequences. And with over 50,000 people forced to represent themselves in the family courts every year as a result of the loss of legal aid, we’re concerned that many people are entering the courts with little understanding of how divorce will affect their financial future, and that of their children.”

The British household median income is just £32,600, meaning that most people who divorce have little to divide up. This, combined with court costs, the huge financial burden of establishing a separate household as a single person and child care and maintenance costs, put many divorcing people at high risk of debt.

Financial expert and founder of SavvyWoman, Sarah Pennells, said:

Divorce can be financially as well as emotionally draining. All too often sorting out the finances can become a battle, especially if the break-up is acrimonious. Even if both partners want to sort out who gets what amicably, it can be hard to make the money that supported one household stretch to two.”

“It's important that couples don't miss out on any state help they may be entitled to after they break up and that they contact their bank and mortgage lender to explain what's happened. Divorcing couples may face some tough financial choices at a time when dealing with their finances is probably the last thing they want to do, but it's vital that they keep a close eye on their cash.”

The solution, Resolution believes, is for couples to work together to agree a fair financial outcome when separating, rather than relying on the courts.

Jo Edwards added: As horrendous as it might sound to sit down with your ex and talk about how you’re going to manage your separation, it actually leads to a better end result for the vast majority of separating couples.

“Resolution members, who include solicitors, mediators, and independent financial advisors (IFAs), can help couples explore their options for separation that help them avoid taking on debt in order to start a new life.

“These options include out of court dispute resolution processes such as mediation, collaborative law and arbitration, which can help people to find a financial outcome that’s fair for both of them, without the potentially huge costs and stress of going to court.”

“Divorce and separation are always traumatic, but by choosing the right process people can lessen the pain, for themselves and for their families; and look ahead more quickly to life after divorce.

“We believe that divorce doesn’t need to spell financial doom – there is a better way.”



  1. Try and agree how you will handle your finances in the short term while you sort out your divorce or dissolve your civil partnership.

  2. Do be careful about doing anything in retaliation or to antagonise your husband, wife or civil partner. You may feel angry and want your ex to suffer, but it could damage both your finances in the long run.

  3. Do keep an eye on your finances while you’re separating. You may feel there are far more important things to focus on, but don’t ignore bills and accounts.

  4. Talk to your bank as soon as you know you’re going to separate if you have any joint accounts with an overdraft facility, a joint loan or joint mortgage. Get the bank to change the way the account is set up so you both have to agree to any money being taken out or further borrowing. You’re each responsible for paying off the whole debt so it’s vital you do this, especially if the break-up is acrimonious.

  5. If you own your home, your mortgage lender may be reluctant to let the mortgage be switched from joint names to just one partner’s name. It will depend on how much each of you earns and the equity in the property. Talk to an independent mortgage broker, as some mortgage lenders are more flexible than others.

Notes to editors

  1. Resolution is a group of over 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales. It promotes a non-confrontational, constructive approach to resolving family disputes. To find out more, visit

  2. ComRes interviewed 4,031 GB adults online between the 26 September and 2 October 2014, including 1,077 who had been through a separation from a long-term cohabiting relationship or divorce, and 303 who had been through a separation from a long-term cohabiting relationship or a divorce, who were parents. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all British adults by age, gender, region and socio-economic grade. All percentages referenced above are based on those with experience of separation or divorces. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available at

  3. Sarah Pennells is the founder of and a well-known personal finance journalist and broadcaster. SavvyWoman is an independent website, aimed at helping women save money, and was named as 5th in The Times’ Top 50 money saving websites.

  4. Jo Edwards is the national chair of Resolution and practices as a family lawyer and mediator in London.