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.

Child Benefit

You can get Child Benefit if you’re responsible for a child aged under 16

This age limit rises to 20 if they’re still in full time education up to:

  • A-level,
  • Highers,
  • An equivalent level, or
  • Doing certain ‘approved’ training courses.

If your ex-partner was claiming Child Benefit and you are now going to be responsible for your children, and want to claim it, you can switch who claims the benefit.

Your ex-partner should contact the Child Benefit Office and explain that they no longer want to claim Child Benefit. You will then have to make a new claim for it.

In England, Wales or Scotland, you can find contact details on the GOV.UK website.
In Northern Ireland, you can find contact details on the nidirect website.
There’s more information in our guide Claiming Child Benefit.

Child Benefit and the Higher Tax Charge

If you or your ex-partner is earning over £50,000 and you receive Child Benefit, you should have been taxed on the amount you’ve received.

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.

Income Support

You might be able to claim Income Support if you’re on a low income and:

  • pregnant

  • a lone parent with a youngest child under 5

  • a carer.

This benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit and you may be asked to claim it instead if you live in a Universal Credit full service area.

Find out more about Income Support on GOV.UKopens in new window.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

You might be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) if you’re available for work. If you have children and your youngest child is aged 5 or older, you may have to claim JSA instead of income support.

You may have to claim new style JSA and Universal Credit if you live in a Universal Credit full service area.

Child Tax Credit

You might be able to claim Child Tax Credit to help with the costs of bringing up children. This benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit and you might be asked to claim it instead.

You can claim for children until they reach 19 (or 20 in some cases) if they are in full-time approved education or training, but not at university.

If you’re already getting Child Tax Credit you must let HMRC know about your change of circumstances and this could trigger a claim for Universal Credit if you live in a full-service area.

Working Tax Credit

If you’re working and on a low income you might be able to claim Working Tax Credit. If you get Working Tax Credit and have children you can get up to 70% of your childcare costs paid.

If you’re already getting Working Tax Credit you must let HMRC know about your change of circumstances and this could trigger a claim for Universal Credit if you live in a full-service area.

Employment and Support Allowance

If you’re unable to work because of illness or disability you might be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You may have to claim new style ESA and Universal Credit if you live in a Universal Credit full service area.

Help with housing costs if you’re divorcing or separating

If you live in rented accommodation you might be able to get Housing Benefit if you’re on a low income. Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit and you may be asked to claim UC instead.

If you are a homeowner and getting certain means tested benefits such as Universal Credit or Income Support you may 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 Income Support or Universal Credit. You will need to apply to your local council.

How Universal Credit affects you if you are divorcing or separating

Universal Credit is replacing these benefits:

  • Income Support

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Child Tax Credit

  • Working Tax Credit

  • Housing Benefit.

If you’re 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 (for tax credits) about your change of circumstances.

If you are living in a Universal Credit full service area, you might have to make a new claim for Universal Credit.

Find out more in Universal Credit explained.

How Universal Credit affects you if you are a lone parent

If you have three dependent children or more, you won’t be asked to make a claim for Universal Credit for the time being.

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:

  • No work-related requirement - lone parents with a child under one.

  • Work focused interview only - lone parents whose youngest child is aged 1.

  • Work preparation requirement - lone parents whose youngest child is aged 2.

  • All work-related requirement - If your child is aged 3 or above.

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.

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.

You will probably be expected to be available, or look, for work for 16 hours a week once your child reaches three until they start full time school.

After they start full-time school and up until age 13, you will be expected to be available, or look, for work for up to 25 hours a week.

Once your child reaches 13 you will be expected to be available, or look, for work for up to 35 hours a week but you can still ask for this to be changed if there is a good reason for doing so.

You can claim up to 85% of childcare costs up to a certain limit.

How does child maintenance affect your benefit payments?

Child maintenance is not counted as income for means-tested benefits such as Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Universal Credit and Housing Benefit.

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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