I have just become a single parent, Help!
There are many reasons why people find themselves parenting alone. In the early days we find ourselves asking how we'll cope, and where can we can turn for help. The emotional effect can be devastating so why not join a Single Parents chat forum to get support from other single parents.
Aside from the emotional side, there are other practical matters that you will have to deal with:
Are you going to/able to stay where you are? The answer will depend on whether you can afford to do so and whether you can take the tenancy/ownership in your sole name. If you are renting, it could be quite simple to transfer the tenancy.
If there is a mortgage then it could be more difficult: your own income may not support the loan and your partner may also want to keep the property, or they may want you to "buy out" their share so they can afford to move out.
However hard it may be, face up to these things now and it will help you later on, rather than running up debts. You should make sorting out your housing issues as a top priority.
2. Finances and money
There is a range of Financial Support for Single Parents, whether working or not. Please note that the benefits go to the person who collects the Child Benefit. This may not be you if the other parent claimed Child Benefit when the child was born. If you need to get this changed, get in touch with The Child Benefit office.
If you have this entitlement already, contact Job Centre Plus about what else you can claim.
Is the children's other parent going to start paying child support and maintenance payments? It might be hard at first to manage your money when you become a single parent but there is lots of advice and support out there to help you along.
Make sure that you tell key people about your change in circumstances. This includes:
- your housing and working benefit office
- your council tax office
- your mortgage lender or landlord
- water, gas, electricity and telephone companies
Becoming a single parent can effect your ability to work or not work. If you do not work then it might be that you have to consider returning to work in order to be financially secure. However if you do return to work, then there will be implications to any childcare arrangements that you had if you are a working single parent.
If you have a job then you will need to work out if you are able to continue with the same working pattern or whether you will have to change your hours. This might be an increase or a decrease depending on your situation. Bear in mind that the number of hours you work will have implications for any benefits you receive.
4. Legal rights
You need to seek legal advice if you are separating from the other parent, especially if you were living together or have joint possessions. Many solicitors will give you the first 30 minutes free. Check this before you book an appointment!
You will also need to make arrangements for child maintenance. The Child Maintenance Options service can tell you about your options for organising child maintenance, including setting up your own arrangement with your ex-partner. If you cannot agree on an arrangement, you can apply to the Child Support Agency to assess and collect maintenance. If you are married or in a civil partnership, your solicitor can tell you whether to apply to court for maintenance for you. This is where your former spouse or civil partner pays money for your needs, not just those of your child.
Find an adviser or solicitor near you.
5. Supporting the children
This is the most important one of all! There are a host of emotional and practical issues facing you in your parenting. If the children are going to live with you, what contact will they have with the other parent? It is vital to be honest with your children as far as their age permits.
Younger children can be reassured by books about other families whose parents live apart, whereas older children will appreciate your openness. Never, never criticise the other parent in front of the children, however. Children of all ages need to be reassured that you both still love them and to know that the break up is not their fault. Expect tears, and anger and regressive (babyish) behaviour for a while. Be patient and loving and things should improve with time.
6. Supporting you
You may feel like everyone is expecting you to be superhuman, dealing with all the extra admin, on top of the hurt of your family being broken apart. You need to look after yourself in all this.
Get the support of family and friends, or a counsellor if you need to talk things through at length. Try to get some time to yourself every day, even if it is only 15 minutes in the bath or half an hour after you finally get the rest of the family to bed.
Congratulate yourself on having survived another day as a single parent! If things get truly difficult, talk things over with Family Lives on 0808 800 2222 or The Samaritans on 08457 909090.