Can’t afford to separate?

When separating couples approach us for help, one of the biggest worries they have is financial stability and supporting their family.  The stress of the last few years has put a considerable strain on some relationships, and the current cost-of-living crisis has increased tensions further. Sadly, whilst this may be the cause of several breakups, it’s also the reason estranged couples have no choice but to remain under one roof as they are unable to afford two homes.

We thought it would be helpful to tell you what financial support may be available to you and, later in our blog, how you can manage your relationship if the only option is to continue living together.

Are you entitled to financial support as a single person or parent?

Please note, the below refers to residents in England; the advice may not the same for those living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


You may be able to claim Universal Credit If you’re looking for a job or you’re on a low income and need support to cover the costs of housing, children and childcare, remembering that childcare costs may rise if you live as a single parent. To find out if you are entitled to financial support, click HERE

Council tax

Households with only one adult may be able to get a discount on their council tax bill, depending on where you live and other circumstances. You can find out more HERE

Child maintenance

If your partner or spouse doesn’t live with your child as part of your family, but they are their legal, biological or adoptive parent, they will have to pay maintenance to their main carer to support them up to the age of 16, or 20 if they are in approved education or training.

There are several ways you can arrange child maintenance:

  • You can arrange it with the other parent voluntarily
  • You can have maintenance calculated and collected under a government scheme
  • It can be arranged by a court order
  • If you are getting divorced or ending a civil partnership, child arrangements will form part of this process

If you are arranging maintenance yourself, we recommend (even if your separation is amicable) that agreements are put in writing and you take notes of conversations you’ve had. If this is your preferred option but you’re not sure where to begin negotiations, or you’re afraid the process will be difficult, we can help you find a solution with mediation.

Legal Aid

If you need legal help but are worried about costs, your case may be eligible for Legal Aid. Eligibility depends on several factors, including if you or your family are at risk of harm or abuse or if you need family mediation. Find out more about how we can help you HERE

What if the only option is to stay living together?

Sadly, we see cases where couples would prefer to instigate divorce or live separately but are forced to stay under one roof due to finances, so are unable to move on from their situation. According to experts, the number of couples unable to afford separation doubled last year. Surveys also suggest that 30% of couples are staying together because of financial concerns.

Living separate lives whilst still cohabiting is a tricky situation, but it can be bearable short-term unless the relationship is abusive which we cover below.

When separation is slower it can be more amicable. Here is some advice for managing your relationship:

  • Try setting boundaries, such as giving each other space
  • Decide how you are going to co-parent and try not to let your spouse or partner down
  • Try not to keep secrets from each other
  • Decide what you want to do, who you want to see and where you want to go individually now rather than as a couple
  • If you’re not sure whether separation is the right thing to do you can try a trial separation, such as staying with family or friends for a short time, and then see how you both feel
  • Try to support each other. You’re both in the same boat trying to make the most of your situation
  • Set some time aside to discuss how you can save money. Not only will this give you extra funds to put towards your solo futures, but it might also enhance your relationship. Cancelling TV subscriptions may result in more conversations and cooking together rather than going out for meals or getting takeaways might give you both something to focus on and enjoy
  • Be prepared for people not to understand your situation. Splitting up but remaining living together will sound odd to some, but you don’t have to explain yourself if the burden of running two homes is too much in the current economic situation

Financial and economic abuse

As the saying goes, ‘money is power’ and that’s true in a lot of domestic abuse cases where financial and/or economic abuse is taking place.

  • Financial abuse can take several different forms, including controlling the victim’s access to money (even that which they earn themselves), misusing money, using credit cards without permission, gambling with jointly owned assets, drawing up contracts in the victim’s name and refusing to pay child maintenance
  • Economic abuse is when a perpetrator restricts access to money for basic essentials such as food, clothing, transport, employment, training and education

Financial and economic abuse rarely happen in isolation and is often one behaviour in a pattern of coercive control.

As we’ve said before, there is no excuse for domestic abuse of any kind, and that includes stress or pressure caused by the cost-of-living crisis. If you or your family are in immediate danger, call 999 and seek help from the police. Refuge has a freephone, 24-hour helpline you can call for advice: 0808 2000 247

Do you need help?

Our team are family law specialists offering the best legal advice, representing you where needed and understanding that separating is an uncertain and worrying time.

Call us on 0116 340 0094 or email if you need our advice or support.