Ex Owe You Money? Here's How To Proceed

The end of a relationship disrupts our life on so many levels. Sadness and pessimism aside, our body also experiences negative changes when recovering from a breakup. "Our muscles tense, we lose our appetite, we may experience [gastrointestinal] disruption, and we're likely to have trouble falling asleep. Being in this physically hyper-vigilant state over a period of time can lead to headaches, stomachaches, and muscle soreness," psychologist Dr. Kristin Bianchi told Insider

But imagine dealing with a broken heart and a broken bank simultaneously. For instance, what would you do if you offered your ex financial help and now want your money back? Trying to get money back from a former lover is no less a conk-buster than recovering a debt from your family or friends. Even if you had an amicable split, it can feel awkward to pick up the phone and ask for an update on when they'd repay the money you loaned them. This is especially true when you're newly broken up and still in the process of getting over the pain of the split. If you find yourself in a situation where you have loaned money to your partner and are no longer together, here are some suggestions to improve your chances of getting your money back.

Talk to your ex about it

If you need the money your ex owes you, ask for it in no uncertain terms. A useful rule of thumb is to wait a week after your official split — when you've both cooled down and feel ready to face each other again. If you and your ex have a prior agreement about loan repayment and there's a definitive timeline in place, you should wait for them to make payments on their own. You should only start alerting them to loan repayment when they're late in their scheduled payments. Try to package your words nicely and tell your ex what kind of timeline you expect them to repay the money.

"Being direct is the best way to get a straight answer," etiquette expert Diane Gottsman tells Apartment Therapy. It's a considerable challenge to demand your money back when the post-breakup pain is still raw, but there's no other way. If you can, hold the chat in person rather than over text, email, or phone call, as vital information might be lost when communicating via messaging. "Face-to-face is always better because it's more difficult to avoid someone that is looking you directly in the eyes," Gottsman explains. If your ex sets up a great store by their image, they will feel pressured to pay you back. 

Adjust the terms or enter bartering

If your former flame cannot repay you a lump sum at once as agreed, consider making the terms more flexible to make it easier for them to pay you back. It's always recommended to send polite reminders first and work out all viable repayment options before taking legal action against your borrower.

Another way to resolve non-performing loans is to consider bartering and exchanging the money owed for other things. For instance, you may exchange the money they owe you for their stocks, bitcoins, or other assets worth the amount loaned. Alternatively, you might require your ex to perform a certain amount of household or business-related labor, such as yard work, cleaning, or repairs, in exchange for the debt they owe you. That's a great way to settle any unfinished business between you and your ex while still getting something as valuable in return.

Cut your losses

Lending to a lover is like approving an unsecured personal loan where the borrower's credibility and the lender's love for them are the only collateral. The lending terms are usually not binding, and, in many cases, there's no written contract in place. If your ex acts like they don't care about repaying the money owed, keep pressing them. However, if push comes to shove, you might have to cut your losses and write the debt off as a learning mistake. 

"If I were you, I would reach out one last time and give him a deadline," says financial planner Catie Hogan in InStyle's Petty Cash column. "If he doesn't pay up, then you need to cut your losses and move on. You could take legal action and chase him down, but that's going to cost you more time, money, and emotional stress. Do you really want to do that? Losing $4,700 sucks a lot, but consider it his parting gift. Give yourself a clean slate, and stop following him on social media so you don't drive yourself crazy looking at pictures from his trip to Europe with his new tattoo and girlfriend." 

The moral of the story is that it's not wise to mix love with money in the first place. If you have to, do not lend more than you can afford to waive so that you don't feel stressed about getting it back when you lose the money.

Bring the matter to court

If you can't forgive the debt or you and your ex can't agree on the amount due, you can sue your ex for nonpayment as a last resort. "The quickest and cheapest way to get a money judgment is through the small [claims] court system," attorney Cara O'Neill tells Nerdwallet. "The judge resolves small court cases in one court appearance, and the filing fee and service of process fees usually cost less than $200." However, you'll need to have some evidence on your side — like a written contract — to boost your chance of winning the case.

Collecting on debt might be challenging without written proof that you granted your ex a loan. The debt your ex owes you, however, may be supported by a number of different pieces of documentation. According to Catalyst Law, you can use bounced checks, returned direct debits, unpaid invoices, and records of debt collection efforts in the form of texts or emails to demonstrate that your ex owes you money and that the obligation is past due. If the court ruling is in your favor, you might be able to garnish your ex's earnings, allowing you to receive debt repayment directly from their paycheck.