Financial issues if you're leaving domestic abuse

Many women are reluctant to leave their partners because they don't have the financial resources to support themselves on their own. However, there are ways you can get help.

Claiming benefits

If leaving your partner has left you without an income or on a very low income, you may be able to claim benefits, such as income support or jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit. If you are staying in a refuge or temporary accommodation and still have to pay rent on the home you have fled, you may be able to claim housing benefit for two homes.

If you are staying in a refuge, the staff should be able to help you work out which benefits you are eligible for. You can also get advice on benefits at Citizens Advice or other local advice agency - use the Advice Services Directory to find an agency near you.

In an emergency, you may be able to get a budgeting loan or crisis loan to help pay for essentials.

If you are already claiming benefits (for example, child benefit), remember to contact the relevant agency to let them know your change of address. If you are staying in a refuge or are worried about your partner tracing you, you may want to use a 'care of' address, so that information is sent to a trusted friend or family member.

If you are working, you should let the tax office know about your new circumstances, as you may be entitled to tax credits.

Child maintenance

If you leave your partner, you can apply for child maintenance from them, to help with the costs of bringing up your children, although you may not wish to do this if it may cause you or your children further harm or distress. If you are afraid that your partner may threaten or ill treat you or your child if they are forced to pay child maintenance, it's best to get advice from Citizens Advice or Women's Aid group before making a claim.

You don't need to let your partner know where you're living in order to get child maintenance and there is no need for you to contact them yourself. Once you have made your application, the Child Support Agency (CSA) will contact your partner by phone or letter. Child maintenance is paid to the CSA and then passed on to you. The CSA is responsible for making sure your partner keeps the payments up.

However, you don't have to go through the CSA if you don't want to, even if you're claiming benefits. The Child Maintenance Options website has more information on how to set up a maintenance agreement that works for you.  

If you're on benefits, bear in mind that the amount of child support you receive may affect how much benefit you can get. In addition, it's up to you to let the Jobcentre Plus know how much child support you're getting.

To find out more:

Opening a bank account

If you don't have your own bank account, try to arrange to open one before you leave.

If you already have your own bank account(s) and credit card(s), make sure you tell the bank and credit card company your new address, so that your partner can't get hold of your statements. Use a 'care of' address if you don't want anyone to know where you're staying. Be aware, however, that many banks won't send information to a care of address.

Financial help if you're staying in your home

If you manage to exclude your partner from your home, you may find it difficult to keep up rent or mortgage payments and to pay the bills without their income. The page on help with housing costs after relationship breakdown has more information.

Further information 

Refuge has useful information on what to do if you are worried about your finances, and also produces a guide called 'You can afford to leave', which looks at the financial issues involved. When you read it, bear in mind that the court system is different in Scotland, and that the court orders you can apply for are different here.

The important points

  • If leaving your partner has left you without an income or on a very low income, you may be able to claim benefits.
  • If you leave your partner, you can apply for child maintenance from them, to help with the costs of bringing up your children.
  • If you don't have your own bank account, try to arrange to open one before you leave.
  • Use a 'care of' address if you don't want anyone to know where you're staying.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

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