5 Money Mistakes Couples Who Live Together Might Make After a Breakup

Neil Sedaka made a massive understatement when he sang, "Breaking up is hard to do." Of course, Sedaka was referring to the heartbreak that comes from calling it quits with your significant other, but that is not the only tough aspect of ending a relationship. Breakups can also be financially costly for the partners as they figure out how to move on, especially if they've been living together.

While married couples can rely on the rules spelled out by divorce laws to protect themselves financially, unmarried couples don't have the same luxury. It is up to you to protect yourself when your live-in relationship goes south.

Here are the common financial mistakes you might make post-breakup — and how to avoid them.

1. Forgetting your financial responsibilities while you recover

The easiest mistake to make after a heartbreak is to ignore the important tasks while you recover. While you are busy watching Dirty Dancing on an endless loop and eating your feelings, you might not notice that your bills are piling up. Creditors don't care that your heart is shattered. They expect to be paid on time, no matter how you are feeling.

Setting up billing alerts can help you to keep your finances in order even while you are in the middle of your heartbreak. Sign up for text message or email alerts so you don't have to rely on your memory to stay on top of your finances. This will ensure that your broken heart doesn't also lead to a destroyed credit rating.

2. Not agreeing on how to sell the house you bought together

You bought the house together when you assumed the relationship was forever — and now you are broken up. If you did not draw up a joint house ownership agreement at the time of the home purchase, it could be difficult for you and your ex to determine a fair division of the home. This can be particularly difficult if one partner believes he or she owns a larger share of the home after contributing money to the down payment or labor toward home renovation or maintenance.

This kind of disagreement can result in long, drawn-out legal fights, so it's in your best interests to compromise with your ex. Assign a dollar figure to each partner's contributions, including things like the down payment, mortgage payments, labor, and other improvements. This will help you better understand each partner's stake in the house.

Once you have come to an agreement on that, one partner can buy out the other's interest in the home, or you can sell the house to a third party and split the proceeds.

It is generally cheaper for one partner to buy out the other, since you will avoid closing costs and other costs associated with a market sale. However, there are further complications to expect if you buy out your partner, such as deciding on a fair price, figuring out if the selling partner's name will need to remain on the mortgage until the buying partner qualifies for a new mortgage, and transferring the title.

3. Forgetting to pay the bills your ex took care of

Every couple has a different system for handling shared expenses. Whether you split every bill down the middle or you each took care of different bills, it's important to make sure you are aware of which accounts your ex took care of. If you find yourself unable to access a shared utility bill because your former sweetheart still has the passwords, you could risk anything from having the utility turned off to potentially losing your good credit rating if the account is in your name.

This is why you need to keep an eye on all shared expenses with your live-in lover, including passwords, contact information, and a tally of who pays for which services. If you find yourself broken up and without that information, it's better to have a chilly conversation with your ex to get the important details than to let your finances take the hit.

4. Not removing your ex's name from shared accounts

Sharing accounts is a natural extension of living together. You might have shared credit cards, utilities, or even a bank account from when you were living under the same roof.

But neglecting to remove your ex from these shared accounts can potentially put you at risk. Even if you're certain your old partner isn't the sort of person to exact financial revenge on you, it's better to take your ex's name off any shared accounts and change the passwords. It wouldn't be the first time that someone shows his or her true colors after a breakup.

5. Fighting over shared items

You bought the dining room table, the computer, and the Xbox together, and you can't decide who gets what. And then there's Roscoe the dog, who neither of you can imagine living without. How do you determine who gets custody of what in your split?

Under ideal circumstances, you and your ex will be able to decide who gets which shared items based on who bought or most uses the item. If your ex is the one who hosts all the dinner parties and you are the one who is up walking Roscoe every morning at 6 a.m., it should be obvious which item should go with which partner. Of course, it's not always so easy, and sometimes you end up fighting over your things.

If you can't stop arguing about who gets what, consider taking the issue to mediation. In this process, you and your ex go to a neutral third party who will help you hammer out the details of who gets what.

In really tough cases, court proceedings can be a last resort to help you solve the question of which items belong to which partner.

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5 Money Mistakes Couples Who Live Together Might Make After a Breakup

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