What benefits can I claim if I am divorcing or separating?

If you’re divorcing or separating from your partner and your income has dropped, there are some benefits you can claim as a single person. There are also benefits you can claim if you’re now a lone parent and your children live with you all or most of the time. This page tells you more about what you may be able to get.

Universal Credit if you are divorcing or separating

If you’re looking for work or on a low income you might be able to claim Universal Credit.

Universal Credit can help you cover the costs of housing, children and childcare.

Find out more about Universal Credit here.

How Universal Credit replaces existing benefits

Many of the benefits you would have been able to claim if you are divorcing or separating are being replaced by Universal Credit. These legacy benefits are:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit.

Most people can no longer make new claims for legacy benefits and will be asked to claim for Universal Credit instead.

If you are already getting these benefits and your partner or spouse leaves the family home you will have to tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or HMRC about your change of circumstances.

You might now have to claim Universal Credit and will be assessed either as a single person or a lone parent.

How Universal Credit affects you if you are a lone parent

If you’re eligible to claim Universal Credit you will usually be put into one of four groups depending on the age of your children:

Age of child Work requirement
Under one No work-related requirement
Youngest child is aged one Work focused interview only
Youngest child is aged two Work preparation requirement
Youngest child is aged three or above All work-related requirement

While your youngest child is aged two or under you will only have to think about what you might do to get back into work. You might have to attend interviews to discuss what you could do and look at improving skills, such as extra training or getting your CV into shape to apply for jobs.

When your youngest child reaches three, you will be expected to look for work if you aren’t already working. You should talk to your work coach about what work is realistic for you based on your caring responsibilities and other things, such as the time you need to drop off or pick up from school or childcare.

Age of child Hours of work or job hunting
Aged three until starting full-time school 16 hours week
After they start full-time school to aged 13 25 hours a week
Aged 13 or above 35 hours a week. You can still ask for this to be changed if there is a good reason for doing so

Once you have agreed what you will to do to find or prepare for work, this will form part of your claimant commitment. If you don’t keep to what’s been agreed, you could be sanctioned. This means you could lose all or some of your benefit for a few weeks.

If you will need help with childcare costs, you can claim up to 85% of the fees up to a certain limit.

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

If you are available for work and have paid enough National Insurance Contributions and worked for two full tax years before claiming, you may be able to get new style JSA along with Universal Credit if you need extra help with things like housing costs or bringing up children.

If you don’t qualify to claim new style JSA and are available for work, you may be able to claim the basic allowance of Universal Credit instead.

Employment and Support Allowance

If you’re unable to work because of illness or disability you might be able to claim new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions. You can claim this along with Universal Credit if you also need help with housing costs or bringing up children because you’re on a low income.

If you don’t qualify for new style ESA you may be able to claim the limited capability for work and work-related activity element of Universal Credit.

Help with housing costs if you’re divorcing or separating

If you are renting and not already claiming Housing Benefit, you will have to make a claim for the housing costs element of Universal Credit.

If you are already getting Housing Benefit and your partner or spouse leaves the family home you will have to tell your local council about your change of circumstances. You might now have to claim Universal Credit. You will continue to get Housing Benefit for two weeks after your Universal Credit claim starts to reduce the risk of rent arrears.

Find out more about moving from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit here.

If you are a homeowner and getting certain means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit you might be able to claim Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI). SMI is paid as a loan, which you have to pay back. There are different ways you can do this.

Find out more about Support for Mortgage Interest.

Council Tax Reduction

You might qualify for a single person’s discount on your Council Tax bill and you get help towards it if you are getting some benefits, such as or Universal Credit. You will need to apply to your local council.

Child Benefit if you’re divorcing or separating

How to change who Child Benefit is paid to

If you’re divorcing or separating, you might need to update your details for Child Benefit.

Child Benefit can only be paid to one person and it’s important it is paid to the main carer, which is normally the parent your child or children live with.

If your ex-partner is receiving the Child Benefit payment you might not get the money unless they pass it on voluntarily.

You can update who gets Child Benefit and report a change of circumstances online or by calling the Child Benefit Office on:

Telephone: 0300 200 3100
Outside UK: +44 161 210 3086

Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm

In England Wales or Scotland, you can also report changes affecting your Child Benefit online on Gov.ukopens in new window.

Child Benefit if you’re now earning less than £50,000

If you or your partner was earning over £50,000 and you received Child Benefit, you should have been paying back a portion of your Child Benefit in extra Income Tax.

If your income has dropped below £50,000 as a lone parent and you are continuing to get Child Benefit you should contact the Child Benefit Office and tell them about your change of circumstances following separation.

If you had chosen not to receive Child Benefit, so that your ex-partner didn’t have to pay the extra tax, you should speak to the Child Benefit Office about making a claim for payment.

If you’re not claiming Child Benefit

If for any reason you were not claiming Child Benefit before, but you now want to, it’s important you apply as soon as possible, as it can take up to 12 weeks to process a claim.

Find out more about claiming Child Benefit.

How does child maintenance affect your benefit payments?

Child maintenance is not counted as income for means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit.

This means if you’re getting maintenance you won’t get less money in these benefits. Other benefits which aren’t means-tested won’t be affected either.

If you have to pay child maintenance

If you’re the parent who has to pay child maintenance and you get certain benefits, you’ll have to pay £7 a week out of your benefits if the CMS or CSA make the maintenance arrangement.

If you make a family-based arrangement, you and the other parent can agree what you should pay out of your benefits.

If you’re making a benefit claim, you should always report your child maintenance arrangements to your Jobcentre Plus Office, even if you don’t think it will affect your claim.

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