I have just become a single parent, Help!
You may be feeling overwhelmed with the reality of the changes going on around you right now.
Below is some practical information and things to consider to help you on your way.
Nobody says its going to be easy, but you can do it, you are not alone, there are plenty of us out here! Come and have a chat with us on Facebook SingleParents page.
Are you able to stay where you are? There are different options depending on whether you were cohabiting or married, and whether you were renting or have a mortgage. See this comprehensive article about What happens to your home when you separate.
Make sorting out your housing arrangements a top priority.
2. Finances and money
Are you claiming all the benefits and tex credits you are entitled to? Depending in your income, savings and circumstances you may be entitled to some help from the government. See our Financial Support available for Single Parents.
Please note that the benefits will 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.
Is the children's other parent going to start paying child support and maintenance payments? See Note 4 on Legal
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 if you find that you are struggling to pay your bills on time.
Becoming a single parent family can affect 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, as can books for older children, who will also appreciate your openness. Never, ever criticise the other parent in front of the children. 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 want 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/when things get truly difficult, call to talk things over with Family Lives on 0808 800 2222 or The Samaritans on 116 123.