As January typically sees a rise in couples taking the difficult decision to end their relationship,here is some vital separation advice from Gingerbread.
It can be a tough time and it brings a lot of change, especially when you have children.
With decisions to make and lots to organise it can be hard to work out what you need to do and when.
However, there are some things that should be a priority.
One of the most pressing practical issues is working out where you and your children are going to live. This is always a tough decision to make and may indeed be the biggest change in your lives.
You maybe able to remain in your current home but if you cannot do this and need to leave and find somewhere else, our factsheet on “Housing Options for Single Parents” explains what’s possible depending on your circumstances, whether it’s social housing or getting support with the rent.
Deciding on arrangements for your children when it comes to your ex-partner is a vital part of the process, our factsheet Making Arrangements for your Children can help you sort out where your children will live, and when they spend time with each parent.
How you’ll cope financially is usually one of the biggest worries after a separation, and thinking about how you’ll manage on your own can be daunting. For most single parents financial support is available, so make sure you get all the help you can for you and your family.
If you weren’t entitled to tax credits before, you may be now. You can use the Turn2us online benefit calculator to check what benefits and tax credits you’re entitled to, and you’ll need to let the tax credits helpline know that you’ve separated. You need to do this within a month. If your household income has gone down it’s likely that you’ll be entitled to more tax credits, so the sooner you let them know, the better.
You’ll also need to let the child benefit office know that you’ve separated – you can report this online through the gov.uk website.
Remember if you’re now the only adult in the household, let your local council know. You should get a discount on your council tax, and you might be eligible for a council tax reduction – contact your local council to find out.
If you’re renting, the council can also check whether you’re entitled to housing benefit to help towards your rent.
Do think about arranging child maintenance with your child’s other parent. All parents have a legal responsibility to support their child financially and it can make a real difference.
Getting support for yourself and your children
It’s not all about the practicalities; separation is of course a time of huge emotional upheaval for you and your children.
You’re not alone. There is lots of support out there if you need it.
You might want to share your experiences and get support from friends or other single parents who have been through the same situation. Joining a support group can be helpful.
There are organisations that can support you and give you practical suggestions on looking after yourself and coping with any emotional difficulties following a separation. Relate offers a wide range of online support, including a parent’s guide to separation. They also offer counselling services for both adults and children.
Deciding to separate is never an easy decision, but taking care of the practicalities, working out your next steps and knowing where you can turn for help if you need it can make things much easier.
Rebekah has been part of Gingerbread’s advice and information team for five years. She now specialises in creating Gingerbread’s online advice for single parents on anything from child maintenance to heading back to work.