I want to separate my finances from my ex

If your ex or partner is controlling or interfering with your money, property or access to everyday items, such as food, clothes and toiletries, you may be experiencing financial or economic abuse.

Taking away your financial or economic independence may be part of pattern of behaviours called coercive control, which is a crime. If you think you're experiencing it, you can report it to the police or get a court order to protect yourself.

For general information on dividing your money and property when you separate, please see Separation and divorce.

Here are some straightforward practical steps to get financial independence from your ex.

Separate your finances

Financial abuse can continue long after you've left an abuser if you’re still connected financially – for example through:

  • joint bank accounts
  • shared debit and credit cards
  • joint tenancies
  • joint mortgages
  • benefits
  • child maintenance
  • spousal maintenance

That’s why you should try to separate your finances from your abuser and ensure you get the maintenance payments you're entitled to, so your ex can’t use them to stay in your life and control you.

Find your important documents

If you want to make changes to existing accounts, claim different benefits, open a new account, or start training or a new job, you’ll need proof of identity and other important documents, such as:

  • passport
  • driving licence
  • birth certificate
  • title deeds and tenancy agreements
  • pay slips and benefits forms
  • national insurance number
  • account numbers
  • utility bills and bank statements

If you can’t take the originals, take copies or photos instead, or just note down any important numbers and details and keep them somewhere safe.

Talk to your bank

Explain to your bank that you’re experiencing domestic abuse and want to know about accounts held in your name. Most now have special teams and systems to help.

Your bank should be able to give you all the information about all your assets or debts, as well as any people linked to your accounts.

Sometimes abusers hide the full picture from their partners, including debts run up in their partner’s name.

Check your credit score

You can check your credit score for free. As well as finding out your rating, you’ll learn if you have any outstanding financial connections to your ex-partner, such as loans or overdrafts.

A good credit score makes it easier for you to get credit cards and cheaper to borrow money.

Open your own account

You need a new account of your own so you can look after your own money, income or benefit payments securely.

Choose a bank that has signed up to the financial abuse code of practice.

Think about the address you’re going to use for the account. Make sure it’s somewhere safe where your abuser won’t be able to access statements or cards.

If you have a joint account with the abuser, it’s best not to use that bank to make it harder for the abuser to get your details.

Freeze joint accounts

Freezing your joint account will stop your partner from taking money from it. It could be very disruptive and is usually best done after you have left and are safe.

Don't use a joint account after you’ve left, because statements might show where you’ve shopped or taken money out.

You won't be able to withdraw funds from the account either – so take all the money you need before you freeze it.

It may also stop any regular payments and direct debits for bills; you should think about how you'll handle these. You can tell the bank what the situation is.

The bank will only unfreeze the account if you both agree to it.

Make sure to stop any accounts linked to the account.

Make cards and accounts secure

Change your PIN codes and passwords for accounts and credit cards. Don’t use anything that your ex is likely to know or guess.

They may have an additional card on your account. It doesn’t have to be a joint account for this. Check with your bank and them to cancel the card and stop any access.

Update your benefits claims

You may be able to get benefits or tax credits you weren't entitled to when you were a couple.

If you've separated, you should tell the benefits agencies about the change so you won't be paid too much or too little. For more information, see Benefits.

Cancel direct debits

There may be bills that you should no longer be paying if you’re no longer living with the abuser.

Cancel direct debits and tell your local council and utility companies – electricity, phone, broadband, water, gas and so on – the date you left, so you won’t be responsible for anything afterwards.

You should also tell your landlord or mortgage provider, and, if you’re receiving benefits, your local Jobcentre Plus about your change in circumstances.

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