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Help with housing costs

If your partner moves out, you may find it hard to cope with paying the bills, household expenses and rent or mortgage on your own. This page looks at help that may be available to you.

If you are worried about your financial situation, get advice from Citizens Advice or money advice centre. An adviser will be able to go over your options with you and help you come up with a reasonable solution.

Applying for benefits

If you are left on a very low income or with no income at all when your partner moves out, you may be able to claim benefits such as housing benefit, council tax benefit, jobseeker's allowance and income support.

If you are already claiming benefits, you should contact the relevant benefits agencies as soon as possible to let them know about your change of circumstances and ask for a reassessment. Without your partner's income, you may be entitled to more money.

Remember, if you are living on your own, you should now be able to get a 25 percent discount on your council tax.

Help with rent

You can apply for housing benefit to help with the cost of rent even if you are not actually liable to pay the rent (that is, if your name is not on the tenancy agreement).

Help with the mortgage

In certain circumstances, you may be able to claim income support mortgage interest (ISMI) to help with mortgage loan repayments. Either spouse or partner can claim this, regardless of whether you are joint owners, the sole owner, or a non-owner.

Maintenance

If you are married, you have a duty to support each other financially until you divorce. You and your partner can either reach a voluntary agreement over maintenance before you divorce, or you can apply for a court order to force your partner to pay maintenance. The court would have to be satisfied that you genuinely need this support and that your partner has enough money to provide it.

You'll need to come to a final agreement over maintenance as part of the divorce settlement. Again, if you can't agree yourselves, you can take the matter to court. If you reach an agreement without going to court, it's important to get your solicitor to draw up a formal document to prove this. Otherwise, if your ex-husband or ex-wife stops paying the maintenance, you won't be able to do anything about it.

If you are in a civil partnership, your partner may be ordered to pay you maintenance by the court, as part of the process of getting your partnership dissolved.

Your partner has a duty to pay maintenance for your children, regardless of whether you are married or not (see below). However, unmarried partners do not have to support each other financially.

If you are claiming benefits, the benefits agency will take into account any maintenance you receive when calculating how much money you are entitled to.

Child maintenance

If you and your partner separate, you can apply for child maintenance from them, to help with the costs of bringing up your children. 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.

You don't have to go through the CSA if you don't want to, even if you are 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:

Applying for a court order

If you are married, in a civil partnership or have occupancy rights, you may be able to apply for a court order to make your partner pay their share of the rent or mortgage and other household expenses, even if they have moved out. This remedy is not currently available to gay and lesbian couples who haven't registered a civil partnership.

You can get advice on applying for court orders and other issues related to maintenance from Citizens Advice or a solicitor at a law centre or independent firm.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're England

The important points

  • If you are left on a very low income or with no income at all when your partner moves out, you may be able to claim benefits such as housing benefit, council tax benefit, jobseeker's allowance and income support.
  • In certain circumstances, you may be able to claim income support mortgage interest (ISMI) to help with mortgage loan repayments.
  • If you are married, you have a duty to support each other financially until you divorce. You can either reach a voluntary agreement over maintenance before you divorce, or you can apply for a court order to force your partner to pay maintenance.
  • If you are married, in a civil partnership or have occupancy rights, you may be able to apply for a court order to make your partner pay their share of the rent or mortgage and other household expenses.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us

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