Each month, our advisers answer your questions. See what questions were asked in April, and what advice we gave.

Jill – child maintenance

Please can you give any advice as to who to turn to ? I am writing on behalf of my daughter. My daughter got divorced in 2013 and had a Court Order for Child Maintenance. Her ex husband, a very wealthy man who owns his own business, has applied to the Child Maintenance Service with a questionably fraudulent tax return showing he is earning under £75 a week. He lives in a 5 bedroom house and runs 3 cars. He is the shareholder of quite a few companies and it can be proved that these companies are worth over £5,000,000. However he takes his money in directors emoluments and dividends, which is difficult to trace. The CMS have just rubber stamped his application to reduce the amount he should pay (that was agreed in the Court Order) and he is now put on the flat rate of £7.00 per week that he has to pay for his two children. If you appeal to the CMS they will contact him, and by his very controlling nature he could possibly stop all spousal maintenance as well. To take him to court is money she does not have. The CMS have not taken lifestyle into account at all because they do not have the funding from the Government, or the correct guidelines. We have contacted Consumer programmes on the BBC and she has even gone to her MP, but so far this wrong seems impossible to be corrected. Can anyone give us any ideas as to where to turn to next?

Our advice

Hi Jill,

Your daughter could apply to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) for a variation. This is where she asks the CMS to look at income that may not have been included in the original CMS calculation. She can use this if she thinks  her ex-husband’s has other income that is not table by HMRC. For example she can ask them to look into the dividends and other payments that he receives as a director and shareholder.

You can find more information about requesting a variation on page 3 of our Challenging your Child Maintenance Service calculation factsheet.

If your daughter requests a variation, it’s very likely the CMS will contact her ex-husband in order to request further information about his income, and they can also contact HMRC.

If there’s a risk he’ll stop paying spousal maintenance, your daughter shuld get legal advice before deciding what to do about the CMS decision. You may find it helpful to read our Getting legal help factsheet.

Tracey – contact arrangements

Hi I’ve split with my kids dad there a court order in place for visiting there dad one-day/night a week the 1st week and 2nd week a long weekend from thrursday to Monday morning. My son has been getting emotional saying he does not want to go I arrange to do it so they my son and daughter go on the Friday night and come back the Sunday night there dad was OK with that and all of a sudden changed his mind they don’t like there nan who looks after them when he is at work I don’t no were I stand as ut dos not say I. The court order

Our advice

Hi Tracey,


Children’s needs and wishes change over time and this means that it’s not unusual for contact arrangements to change.

If you haven’t already done so, you could talk with your son to try to find out why he doesn’t like spending time with his nan. There may be a simple reason that could be resolved easily rather than reducing the time he spends with his dad.  For further guidance and support on how to approach talking to your son about this issue, you can speak to Family Lives on 0808 800 2222 or visit their website at www.familylives.org.uk.    Once you‘ve explored your son’s wishes and feelings further, you may find it easier to talk to his dad and discuss possible changes.


If dad wants to keep to the arrangements in your court order and you don’t feel this is working, you’d   need to apply back to the court to ask for it to be changed, as the original court order stands until the court changes it.  The wishes and feelings of the child (in light of their age and understanding) is one of the things considered by a court when making a decision about contact arrangements.  It’s advisable to seek legal advice before making any decisions. You may find it useful to look at our factsheet on getting legal help.

B – domestic violence

Hi there I was wondering if you could help me in any way, I got your info from the Jobcentre. I left my husband due to domestic violence I am currently homeless and on a friends couch. I have a 3 year old and am 15 weeks pregnant. I really had no choice but to leave things got out of hand to the point where I had to move an hour away, I am claiming Universal credit now and waiting for council house but money is so tight and Im super stressed out. I would love to study to better our lives but any advice or support will be appreciated.

Our advice

Hi B

It sounds like you’re having a very difficult time at the moment. If you need advice and support due to domestic violence, you can contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Free phone Helpline on 0808 2000 247.  They can advise you on things like emergency refuge accommodation and check  if there are any support services in your area.

The Rights of Women guide on domestic violence, housing and homelessness contains information about your housing options.  Also, you can get expert housing advice from the Shelter Helpline on 0808 800 4444.

For general information about separation you can read ourfactsheet called Action to take when a relationship ends.  There’s also lots of information you may find useful on our website about the different things you might need to consider when separating.

If you want legal advice on family law issues, you may find it useful to read our factsheet called Getting Legal Hel

For information about emotional support, you can read our factsheet called Looking After Your Emotional Health

We can advise on a range of subjects, including child maintenance and welfare benefits.  You can contact our free helpline on 0808 802 0925 to speak to one of our advisers about your situation.

Gemma – money

I want to split with my partner but im scared financially ? He is tje main bread winner but i do pay some bills but i dont work at the moment , i have 2 girls , eldest is 9 and the youngest is 2 . I dont jabe a clue what i would be entitled to as i was only on benefits once 6 uears ago for 1 year and its all changed now

Our advice

Hi Gemma,

There are lots of different things to consider when separating from a partner and working out your finances can sometimes be difficult.

You may be entitled to benefits to help with things like your daily living expenses and housing. The type of benefits you can claim will depend on your circumstances, including where you live and whether you have savings. You can find information about benefits on our website here.

We would need more information about your situation to be able to work out what benefits you’re entitled to. You can contact our free helpline on 0808 802 0925 to speak to an adviser and get a full benefit calculation.

Alternatively you can check your benefit entitlement using this online calculator.  You can also find information about benefits on our website here.

Our website has lots of information that you may find useful if you’re thinking about separating from your partner.

Nichola – divorce

Hi, I am wanting to leave my husband but I am a housewife with two children, no income and I live in the property he owns with him. He would be prepared to leave the house so the children could stay here but as I gave no income and. I qualification I know I would never be able to pay the mortgage or probably be able to get one. Would I have to make myself and my children homeless by walking out with nowhere to go before I could receive any help? Also as my husband ya a higher earner we don’t receive any tax credits for me to be able to rely on to be able to secure a property.

Our advice

Hi Nichola,

It can be complicated working out your finances on separation. As you own a property together you may need some legal advice to help decide how your property and finances will be separated. The Family Law Panel has a list of specialist family law solicitors who offer a free initial consultation.

To help decide if you can afford to stay in your current home you’ll need to work out what your income will be as a single parent. You may be entitled to benefits to help with your daily living expenses.

If you separate your benefit entitlement should be based solely on your income. Your husband’s income wouldn’t be taken into account. The type of benefits you can claim will depend on your circumstances, including where you live, the ages of your children, and if you have savings. You can find information about benefits on our website here. You can also contact our free helpline on 0808 802 0925 to speak to an adviser and get a full benefit calculation.

In addition to your benefits, you would also be entitled to a regular amount of child maintenance from your husband to help support your children financially. There’s lots of information about options for making arrangements for child maintenance on our factsheet.

Our website has lots of information that you may find useful if you’re thinking about separating from your partner.

Carrie – child maintenance

Hello my ex gives me £270 a month child maintenance through CMS service for 3 children. He is self employed works 6 days a week and claims he only wants 450 a week I know this to be untrue as I was with him for years and he earns a min of £120 a day and I have seen savings of over £10,000, I did not initially dispute this so it’s passed the month but I’m struggling financially now and he’s booked holidays theatre trips and festivals and I think it’s unfair, I know he gets a lot of cash but he also transfers large amounts between 3 bank accounts, is there any way apart from having to report him to hmrc I can get decision re looked at or for bank statements to be looked at instead as I know he doesn’t declare most of his earnings

Our advice

Hi Carrie

The Child Maintenance service (CMS) calculate how much child maintenance you should be paid by using the latest information about the other parent’s gross income held by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). When someone is self-employed this is usually the figure declared as profits on their latest available self-assessment tax return.

If you think the information that’s been used is wrong and your child’s other parent might have earned income that hasn’t been declared, you can challenge this.  You can ask for a review, also known as a mandatory reconsideration but there are time limits for this. Sometimes you can ask for a late mandatory reconsideration if there are certain special circumstances.

If you think your child’s other parent has any unearned income over £2,500 a year you could ask for a variation. You can also ask for a variation on the grounds of diversion of income.  This is where someone has control over their income and is able to make it artificially lower.

See our factsheet challenging your child maintenance calculation for more information.

If you would like to talk to one of our advisers about your situation please ring our free helpline on 0808 802 0925.

Magdalena – housing

Good morning. I have slipted up with my husband in October 2017. I am trying now to buy a house. As we do not have divorce will house will be shared or only for me? In agreement I will put only my name and that in 100% is going into my account and only for myself will be mortgage. I am planning to do divorce but after I will buy a house. I will be really gratefull for answer. Magdalena

Our advice

Dear Magdalena,

It’s advisable to seek specialist advice from a family law solicitor on this matter. You can find solicitors offering a one off, free consultation on the Family Law Panel’s website. Please also see our factsheet Getting legal help for details of other organisations offering advice and information on family law matters.

Michelle – tax credits

I am a single mum who works full time and claims child tax and working tax My daughter who is nearly 17 wants to get a job Will my child tax and working tax be effected If so how many hours can she do a week so my tax credits are not effected

Our advice

Hi Michelle

You can get tax credits for your daughter as long as she’s still in full time non-advanced education or is doing a traineeship, even if she gets a job as well.  See here for the types of courses that are included.  Any income from her job would be ignored when your tax credits are assessed.

If your daughter left education and got a job then any tax credits and child benefit you get for being responsible for her will stop.  There are complex rules about the actual date that these benefits stop from. It’ll depend on things like their age, whether they’re registered with the local careers service and whether they intend to start another non- advanced course. However they would usually stop straight away if the young person had both left education and got a job for 24 hours or more a week.

You can find information on this on our website.

If you need any further advice on this please call our free helpline on 0808 802 0925.