Financially Adjusting to Life as A Single Parent

A relationship breakdown is rarely easy, regardless of how it might have ended.

Perhaps if one partner is moving out there are new routines to navigate, and a new income level to adjust to. This can be especially difficult if you and your ex-partner have children together.

We understand that money worries are the very last thing you need right now, so we’ve gathered some advice on how to financially adjust to life as a single parent.

The first few months might feel a little strange, as if you are riding a rollercoaster of emotions. You may need this time to come to terms with the changes, so being kind to yourself, physically and mentally, should be a priority.

Replan your monthly budget

One of the first things you will need to do following a separation is take a good look at your financial situation.

Try not to panic. While everyone’s experience of separation is different, it’s possible that you might be looking for ways to adjust your outgoings, as well as boost your budget. Depending on your circumstances, you could be eligible for various benefits - we’ll take a look at these later.

Banish the joint account

Now is an ideal time to look at any financial ties you have with your ex-partner, such as bank accounts, savings accounts, or any financial products where both your names appear on the credit agreement. You will need to let your bank or your credit provider know your change of circumstances as soon as you can so you can begin the process of dividing your assets, as well as any debts you are both responsible for.

While this may feel like an overwhelming task, it makes sense to do this sooner rather than later. MoneyHelper have put together some useful information which could help ease the process; you can read it here.

Check to see if you are eligible for any benefits

There are a number of benefits available to single parents.

Universal Credit 

If you’re out of work, unable to work (for example, due to a health condition), or on a low income, Universal Credit could help to cover the costs of housing and childcare.

To be eligible to apply, you must:

  • Be over 18 years of age (although 16 and 17 years old may be accepted in some circumstances);
  • Be under state pension age;
  • Live in the UK; and
  • Have less than £16,000 in money savings and investments.

Universal Credit is paid monthly, and how much you get depends on a number of factors, including whether or not you’re working and how much you earn. You can get an approximate estimation of how much money you may be eligible for by using the benefits calculator on the website. 

You could be entitled to additional money if you have children. You will get extra money for your first and second child (£315 for your first child if they were born before 6th April 2017, or £269.58 if they were born after, and £269.58 for your second child).

You will not be paid extra for any other children, unless they were born before the 6th April 2017, or you were already claiming for three or more children prior to this date.

If you have a disabled child, you will be paid £146.31 extra, or £456.89 if they are severely disabled. You will be eligible for this amount regardless of how many children you have.

Universal Credit also enables you to claim back up to 85% of childcare costs if you’re working.

For further information on Universal Credit and how to claim, visit the website.

Child Benefit

You may already be claiming Child Benefit, which can be applied for 48 hours after the birth of your child.

When you divorce or separate, your details may need updating. The benefit should be paid to the child’s main carer, or the parent the child lives with the majority of the time.

If a family split up, one parent will receive £24 a week for your eldest (or only) child, and £15.90 for every other child.

If you are not already in receipt of Child Benefit, you can start a claim here. It can take up to 12 weeks to process an initial claim.

If you need to amend your Child Benefit details, including your bank account details, you can do so by clicking here.

Agree on Child Maintenance payments

Child maintenance is paid from one parent to another and helps to cover the expenses of everyday living relating to your child following a separation. It applies to all children up to the age of 16, or up to 20 if they remain in full-time education (A-Level equivalent or higher).

You do pay tax on child maintenance, and receiving the payments will not affect any other benefits that you may be claiming.

The agreement can be arranged between parents, or with help from the Child Maintenance Service.

You can calculate an estimation of your child maintenance payments here.

Paying for a child’s upbringing is the responsibility of both parents. Child maintenance must be paid, even if a parent does not have contact with the child.

You may be eligible for a reduction in your council tax

If you are now the only adult (not in full-time education) in your household, you may qualify for a reduction in your council tax.

This will depend on your local council, and you will need to seek the information directly from them. You can find your local council by typing your postcode into the website.

Make the most of free school meals, if applicable

Your child may be entitled to free school meals. To check your eligibility, head to the website, find your local authority, and follow the link to their individual site. Here, you should be able to find further information, including instructions on how to apply.

If your partner passes away…

We sincerely hope that you never find yourself in this position, but if you do, please know that help and financial support options are available for you and your child.

You may be able to claim Bereavement Support Payment if:

  • You were under State Pension age when your partner died;
  • Your partner died on or after the 6th April 2017;
  • You were either married to your partner, or looked after a child who lived with you both; and
  • Your partner paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks in one tax year, or died because of an accident at work, or a disease caused by their work.

Bereavement Support Payment claim forms can be downloaded from the website.

You may also be eligible for Child Benefit if your partner passes away and you become the main carer of the child or children.

If you’re working, you could ask for a pay rise 

Discussing money doesn’t come naturally to many of us, but it might be an idea to request a meeting with your manager.

Explain that your circumstances have changed and that you would really benefit from a pay increase. There may be something your employer can do to help – if not a pay rise, then they may be able to offer you a subsistence allowance, or a contribution towards your travel expenses.

You have nothing to lose by asking the question.

Visit the Gingerbread website

Gingerbread have been established for over 100 years. They are a charitable organisation whose aim is to help single-parent families ‘not just survive, but thrive.’

They actively campaign against discrimination and stigmas that single parents face every day.

Their website offers advice and information on various topics, including budgeting, benefits, going on holiday, Christmas, and the cost-of-living crisis.

Don’t go without

Shockingly, research released by Gingerbread revealed that half of single parents admitted to having to cut back on food for themselves, or go without meals altogether.

This is a horrifying statistic, and absolutely nobody should ever have to find themselves in this position.

Food is a necessity, not a luxury.

If you’ve cut back all you can and simply cannot afford to eat, please consider a food bank. To use a food bank, you must have been referred by either a social worker, your GP, a housing officer, the police, or somebody from the Citizens Advice Bureau. To find your nearest Citizens Advice and request a food bank referral, head to the Citizens Advice Bureau website.

Have you heard of the Olio app?

Free to download, users can create an account and find food (and other items) that’s being given away by individuals and some stores in their local area, free of charge. This could be food that is no longer needed, or products that are nearing their sell-by date.

Olio aims to reduce food waste, while offering a helping hand in combatting food poverty.

Apply for a grant 

If you’re a single parent on a low income and are struggling with money, you may be able to apply for a grant from a charity.

Grants are not required to be paid back and do not affect any benefits you might be receiving.

How you spend your grant is up to you: you can use the money to fund a one-off payment such as school uniform costs, or you can stretch it out to assist with ongoing expenses, such as food shopping.

Each charity has different eligibility requirements in place.

You can browse different grant options on the Gingerbread website, and can even take a short questionnaire to narrow down your search. The results of the questionnaire will help to match you with possible suitable grants.

Manage expectations

You may experience feelings of guilt when your money is suddenly restricted and you are no longer able to spend as much as you might have in the past.

When you’re struggling with money, the very last thing you need is to be presented with your child’s painfully-lengthy birthday wish list.

If financially viable, try to prioritise the item your child wants the most (within reason, of course – a pony might be pushing it a bit!).

It’s likely that friends and family will ask for present ideas for your child’s birthday. Why not allocate various items from their list?

Be honest with your children.

Following the separation, your children are likely to have lots of questions (‘Does this mean we now get two Christmases and double presents?’ is a common one!).

No matter how young or old your children are, it’s important that they are fully aware of the situation and all of the related changes that may happen, including a tightening of the belt. Explain to your child that money is in shorter supply, and therefore it may not be possible to spend as much as you once did on birthdays, Christmas, and days out.

Watching a parent exercise caution when it comes to spending might actually help some children learn about budgeting and money management – and it’s never too early to teach your children about the benefits of saving.

Encourage your children to set a goal and save a fraction of their pocket money each week. Watching their financial awareness build up alongside their cash is rewarding for everyone.

You can’t buy happiness

While this may sound like a dull cliché, it really is true.

Think back to your most treasured childhood memories. Remember birthdays, Christmases, and the long summer break. Are you recalling the presents you received, or the quality time spent with loved ones?

There are plenty of ways to enjoy time together without spending a penny. Picnics, museums, and walks along the beach or in the park are just some of the many cost-free ways to make memories.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of your time and friendship; they are the most valuable gifts you can give to your children.

Remember to treat yourself. 

When spending becomes strained, it can be easy to prioritise everyone and everything before yourself.

You shouldn’t feel at all bad about treating yourself every now and again.

Little staples of self-care can help to enhance your morale amid the challenges of being a single parent.

Some free/ low-cost ways to treat yourself:

  • Buying a bottle of lovely bubble bath and taking an hour or so to pamper yourself – stores such as Home Bargains are great for low-cost face sheets, hair masks, and bath bombs, with many items starting at 89p.
  • Picking up a bar of your most-loved chocolate and indulging.
  • Pouring a mug of hot chocolate and settling down in front of your fave films once the kids have been packed off to bed.
  • Stock up on books from your local library and get lost in another world for an hour or two.
  • Call up your friends for a good old natter. Why not organise a virtual quiz for your whole friendship group?


Relationship changes may mean that things are financially tough for a while, but you should NEVER feel ashamed of your situation.  Parenting is rarely an easy feat, particularly when going solo for the first time.

You are not alone. According to Gingerbread, single parents make up around a quarter of families with children in the UK.

Try not to be hard on yourself – none of us are perfect, parenting doesn’t come with a manual, and we all make mistakes.

You’re doing a fantastic job.

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