How do I Break Free From a Loan With my Ex?

Dear Debt Adviser, My ex-girlfriend and I had a fifth-wheel camper and a truck financed in both our names -- maybe a few other things, too. We have been broken up for more than a year. She has all of the stuff. I recently found out she is delinquent on these loans. I want to know if I can make her get my name off of these loans? -- Richard

Dear Richard,Make her get your name off these loans? It has been my experience that I have never been able to make a woman do something she didn't want to do.

You have learned what many other people in your shoes have learned -- it can be simpler to break up with someone than it can be to walk away from your joint financial obligations. It does not matter to your creditors if you and your girlfriend are still together or have called things off. The creditor only knows and cares that you both signed an agreement to pay a loan. If the loan is not paid as agreed, the creditor has the right to collect the monthly payment from either one or both of you, as well as any past-due amount. Like it or not, you are as financially hooked up to your ex-girlfriend as your fifth-wheel trailer is hooked up to your truck -- at least as long as the loans are in effect.

I hope your former sweetheart does not consider herself a woman scorned as this will complicate your already precarious situation. Either way, I suggest that you talk with your ex and find out what is going on in her life in general and in her financial life in particular. I further suggest that you do not open the discussion with what you want, but with your concern for what issues may be behind her recent default and how you are sympathetic to any issues that she may have. For example, if she's lost her job and can no longer afford the truck and camper -- and you can -- you might decide together that it would be best for you to take possession of them (at an agreed-upon time) and begin making the loan payments. You would then have the choice to refinance the loans in your name only if you wanted to.

If the reason for her default is less serious and has been resolved, you might request that any joint loans be refinanced in only one name, either yours or hers. However, depending on how delinquent your ex has been on the loans and her income level, she may not qualify to refinance by herself.

To protect your credit and your ex's, it would be best to have a conversation sooner rather than later. Before you sit down together, get a copy of your credit report to see how late the payments are and if you jointly owe on any other items. It would be best for one of you to pay any past-due amounts as soon as possible to bring them current. Be aware that if the truck and camper are repossessed by the creditor, you will each be fully responsible for any amount still owed on the loan after it's sold at auction. Additionally, late payments on a joint loan will be reported on both credit reports as late each month, which will damage your credit and score.

The bottom line is that you need to find out what is happening with your ex and try to protect your credit and finances as best as you can. And, moving forward, be equally careful with whom you get into romantic and financial arrangements.

Good luck!

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