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

Rental advice

Hi, I have 2 year-old daughter. I would like to ask for help to rent a house. For the moment we are in shared accommodation, but I have problems with my landlord. I need to move as soon as possible – if you can help me with advice or name of the institution, that will be very helpful.

Our advice

As you’re having difficulties with your landlord, you may wish to contact Shelter for specialist housing advice about their and your rights as a tenant.

If you need to move, you could consider moving to another privately rented property or applying for social housing. You may be able to get help with a deposit and rent in advance, along with help with the ongoing rent, depending on your circumstances. You can find more information about renting and getting help with the rent on our website.

You can contact your local council for help if you are threatened with homelessness or are likely to be homeless within the next 8 weeks. Shelter has more information about how to get help from the council if you’re in this situation. It’s best to take advice before leaving your current accommodation as the council may not provide longer-term housing if they think  you’ve made yourself homeless.

Support while studying

Hi, I am a single parent and I have applied for a full-time masters degree. With no employment income, what help am I entitled to? Housing Benefit, Tax Credits, Universal Credits, bursaries from the university? I would really appreciate any information. Thank you.

Our advice

You’re likely to be eligible for a postgraduate loan to help with your course fees and living expenses. Your university may have bursaries or financial hardship funds to help with additional costs such as childcare.

If you’re the only adult in your home, you won’t have to pay Council Tax while you’re a full-time student. In addition, you could be entitled to benefits such as income support, housing benefit, tax credits or universal credit. The benefits you can get will depend on your circumstances, including where you live and any other income you have.  You can call our free helpline for a calculation and to go through your situation in more detail.

Finances and maternity leave

Hi, I am currently on maternity leave. I’m really confused about what I will be entitled to with childcare help. My baby is only 5 months and I can only find schemes for 2 years plus. I am wondering whether it will be worth going back at all. My income is low – I usually earn £250 a week after taxes. I am on statutory maternity pay of £600 a month. Please could someone advise me? I am really struggling with the thought of leaving her. I don’t want to. I would rather be with her until she starts school but I think once my maternity pay ends, I will only get income support and no working tax credits so not sure how I would live on that. Any help would be really appreciated!

Our advice

You could get help towards some of the costs of registered or approved childcare if you return to work and claim certain benefits.  You can find more information about tax credits and other benefits you may be entitled to if you return to work here.

If you’ve already claimed tax credits, you can claim the childcare element of working tax credit if you work for 16 or more hours a week. If you haven’t made a claim for tax credits, you need to check if universal credit has been introduced in your area yet. If it has and you haven’t made a claim for tax credits you’ll need to claim universal credit instead.

Universal credit is a benefit that replaces new claims for tax credits and certain other benefits for those who live in an area where universal credit has been introduced. You can check here to see if you live in a universal credit area. Universal credit includes an element to help with your registered childcare costs if you do paid work for any number of hours. You can find more information about help with childcare costs from universal credit here.

If universal credit hasn’t been introduced in your area yet, you can make a new claim for tax credits if you haven’t yet claimed.

If you decide not to return to work once your maternity pay ends, the benefits you can claim will depend on your circumstances at that time.

Whether you intend to return to work or not, we can advise on what benefits you can get if you call our helpline on 0808 802 0925.

Separation and housing

In brief – I’ve been with my partner for 6 years, lived together just over 3 years with my daughter who has autism (now aged 16 years). Although we bought the house together, he secured the mortgage in his name until I sold my house.

Due to the relationship becoming very abusive, I was not given the opportunity to put half towards the mortgage or be allowed to have a joint mortgage. He works in a legal profession role and uses this to bully/dominate us. My daughter has now finished her GCSE’s and we are now in a position to leave.

I am trying to buy a house back in my hometown but this is going to take some time. He has now demanded that we leave asap – what (if any) is my legal situation now?

I am actively viewing, putting in offers to purchase a house – can he just change the locks?

80% of furnishings belong to me and I’m on the electoral register – is there a time (grace) for myself and disabled daughter to find a house and move? I am reluctant to rent a house as I’m on a low income and wouldn’t be able to buy a house too. More importantly, the effect this is having on my daughter – moving once is already going to be a mammoth task for her but to rent and buy means moving twice. This she couldn’t handle, as well as starting a new sixth form school.

I have an offer in on a property and hopefully secure this with approximately 8/10-week turnaround. My main concern is what is my ex-partner going to do next – I don’t trust him. Is my furniture going to be left on the driveway? Can he do this? I am being very amicable but he is refusing to speak to me. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Our advice

Although you said the mortgage is in your ex-partner’s sole name, it isn’t clear if he’s the sole legal owner of the property. If you jointly own the property, you have a right to stay there. You can find more information here about your housing rights when you separate. The following information applies if your ex-partner is the sole owner. It is important that you also take legal advice about your situation and options.

If you’re married, you have ‘home rights’ which give you a right to stay in the home whilst you are still married. You can register your home rights with the Land Registry to help stop your ex-partner from selling the house. You can find more information about registering your home rights on the gov.uk website. If you’re married, your ex-partner doesn’t have the right to change the locks and exclude you from the home. You could apply for an occupation order if he does this.

If you’re not married, you don’t have an automatic right to remain in the home. You may be able to apply for a court order that allows you to stay in the home. Here’s some information about different orders that you may be able to apply for:

  • You may be able to apply for an occupation order. An occupation order usually lasts for 6 months, but you can apply for it to be renewed. It’s free to apply.
  • You may be able to apply for an order that allows you to stay in the home for your daughter’s benefit. You can find more information about this here. However, you will need to seek legal advice about whether you could make this kind of application in your situation.
  • You may be able to establish a ‘beneficial interest’ in the property if you both intended that the property was to be your property too. Often this can be hard to prove, but certain actions like making financial contributions can sometimes help. This is a very complex area of law and you would need to speak to a solicitor.

Whether or not your ex-partner can lawfully remove your furniture from the property depends on whether or not you have a right to stay there, or can obtain a right to stay there by applying for a court order, as set out above.

You can find information about getting legal advice here. You could also call the National Domestic Violence Helpline for advice on applying for an occupation order. The helpline also provides other advice and support to women who are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence.

Disability grants and financial support

I am a single parent and a full time carer for my young son. The main aspect of my son’s disability is overwhelming anxiety which means he is too anxious to leave the home for days on end. Recently, he has expressed a wish for us to get a camper van to expand his world. As you can imagine, this is a huge step for him. His first aim is to get to Legoland – public transport and hotel stays are not an option – and I am limited on budget. Is there anywhere I can apply for help with funding to support this step in our lives? Obviously, as a single parent with very little outside support, I am looking at a safe vehicle that can be relied on to be fully dependable. We are not in receipt of Higher Rate Mobility. We are UK citizens living in England.

Our advice

It can be difficult to buy expensive one-off items when you’re on a low income, and it’s worth checking to see if there are any grants to help with these. To find out if there are any charitable grants you could apply for, you can contact Turn 2 Us on 0808 802 2000 or search for a grant via their website: www.turn2us.org

You can get expert information about help and support for children with disabilities or medical conditions from Contact

Claiming child support

I have had residential custody of my daughter (now 10 years old) since 2013 – as agreed by the Magistrates Courts. Since that time, I have received no payment at all from her mother (who lives in Wales). Her mother has alternate weekend access when she requires. In her agreement to the courts, she stated she would provide half towards her schooling needs (dinners, clothes, holidays etc). I have never received any payment from her throughout this time.

18 months ago, I sent 2-3 letters to the CSA to enquire about my rights and how to proceed in help with this. I was told I needed her mother’s address – which at that time was difficult to secure as she moved to several addresses – however, I now have her address and am hoping you may be able to provide me with information or relevant forms i need to complete to claim child support. Many thanks.

Our advice

If you have a court order for child maintenance and your child’s mother has failed to pay the amount stated in the order, then you will need specialist advice from a solicitor if you want to enforce it. You can search for a free consultation from a solicitor in your local area through the Family Law Panel website.

The Child Maintenance Service is a government agency that has replaced the Child Support Agency regarding new applications for child maintenance. If you have a court order for child maintenance, but would like to make an application to the Child Maintenance Service, you will need to wait until one year has elapsed from the date of the court order to do this.

Please see our factsheet called Using the Child Maintenance Service for advice on how to apply to the Child Maintenance Service.

Financial support after ESA

I have been claiming ESA for the past few months and have secured a job now working 15 hours a week starting Monday 17th September. I have contacted ESA who have closed my claim. They said I am owed a payment of £10.84 which will be paid on Wednesday. I have £22 in my account. As of next week, I am going to need at lease £20pw for fuel to get me to work and I won’t receive a wage until the end of October. I literally have no idea how my daughter and I are going to live. ESA told me there is nothing they can do as they don’t do into work grants anymore. I can’t find any information anywhere. What can we do? I think I have enough food in the cupboards for a week. My daughter is nearly 13 and will get a panini for lunch now at school. I get housing and council tax benefit so not worried about that, just don’t know how I am going to fuel the car and live.

Our advice

The Jobcentre Plus (JCP) has a Flexible Support Fund which JCP advisers can use to help single parents overcome financial emergencies in the first weeks of employment. The fund can be used to cover expenses such as transport costs or to buy clothing and equipment necessary to start work and payments are made at the discretion of JCP staff. You can speak to your employment adviser about how to access the Flexible Support Fund in your area.

Your local council may have a local welfare assistance scheme which can provide help in a crisis. The Advice Local website has a postcode search to help you find your local welfare assistance scheme. There’s more information on our website about financial help in an emergency. You can also contact our free helpline and one of our advisers can check the benefits you are entitled to while you are working.

Wellbeing concerns during contact hours

I have 2 children aged 14 and 10. My 14 year old stopped contact with her dad in January this year as was fed up of him being rude about me and lying constantly. My son wanted to stay seeing his dad and I wanted it to be the choice of the children if they saw him or not. This weekend, for the first time, my 10year old son rang me and asked me to get him, as he felt unsafe and was screaming and crying. I ran and got him. He witnessed a nasty argument with my ex-husband and his new current partner and it scared him and the new partner’s 11 year old son. My ex didn’t even come to the door when I got him and has not got in contact to check on him since it happened.

My son no longer wants to go and see his dad. He might want to go for the day once he feels more at ease. There is no court order arrangement in place, and I reported it to the police yesterday and they have advised that i can stop access. My son has seen a counsellor in the past to deal with my ex-husband and to find a way to manage his emotions. The impact on his emotional wellbeing is my concern, I do not want him going there for any more overnight stays until the confidence has been rebuilt, if it ever is.

Before I email my ex-husband telling him this, I want to clarify my rights as I know his response will be abusive and upsetting, so want the confidence in my actions before I write to him.

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If you have concerns about the safety of your son and you think that overnight contact may not be safe or appropriate, you can limit contact. If you’re concerned dad’s  response will be abusive you may want to speak to Women’s Aid who have a domestic violence helpline to talk about ways of keeping safe and getting support.

If you’re thinking about future contact arrangements, you could consider supervised contact. This might be supervised by someone you know or take place at a child contact centre. You can find information about child contact centres from the National Association of Child Contact Centres

If you can’t agree about contact, you may want to consider applying to the court for a child arrangement order to put these arrangements in place. Rights of Women or Child Law Advice can advise you on how to do this. See our factsheet Getting legal help too.

Family Lives is an organisation which can offer specialist help and advice regarding your son’s emotional well-being.