Parenting alone


You may find yourself parenting alone due to a variety of circumstances.

Whatever the reason, there are a range of benefits and entitlements you may be entitled to, depending on your circumstances. In addition, there are important legal issues you should be aware of that affect people parenting alone.

Social welfare payments

If you are parenting alone you may qualify for certain social welfare payments.

Child Benefit is payable for each child under 16 years of age, or under 18 years of age if the child is in full-time education or has a disability. From 1 May 2024, Child Benefit will be extended to children aged 18 who are in full-time education or who have a disability until their 19th birthday.

One-Parent Family Payment is a means-tested payment for parents who are bringing children up without the support of a partner. It is payable to a single parent, a widow/widower/surviving civil partner, a prisoner's spouse/civil partner, a separated or divorced person, a person whose marriage/civil partnership has been annulled or whose civil partnership has been dissolved.

You may be entitled to a Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension if either you or your deceased spouse has enough PRSI contributions. Under the Occupational Injuries Benefit Scheme, a Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Pension may be payable if the death was due to an occupational injury or disease or an accident while travelling directly to or from work.


There is a legal responsibility on both spouses to maintain each other and any dependent children in accordance with their means. Separated or divorced parents are responsible for the maintenance of their children and may have maintenance responsibilities in respect of each other, depending on the terms of the separation or divorce.

Civil partners are also legally obliged to maintain each other and any dependent children in accordance with their means and may have maintenance responsibilities in respect of each other if the civil partnership is dissolved, depending on the terms of the dissolution.

Cohabiting parents do not have a financial responsibility to each other but both parents have a responsibility for the maintenance of their children. A cohabitant who is a guardian of their partner’s child, or the child their partner has the day-to-day care of, has a financial responsibility to the child.

If a cohabiting relationship ends, you may have a right to maintenance under the redress scheme for cohabiting couples.

You can find out about maintenance here. There is also information on how maintenance is assessed for social welfare payments and how maintenance affects your tax.


If you are widowed or a surviving civil partner, you can claim an increased personal tax credit. The amount of the tax credit depends on whether or not you have dependent children and when your spouse or civil partner died. You can find out more about tax in the year of death and the years following a death.

The Revenue Commissioners have information on the tax treatment of widowed people and surviving civil partners. Surviving civil partners are treated the same as widows or widowers for tax purposes.

The Single Person Child Carer Credit (SPCCC) is a tax credit for people who are caring for children on their own. It came into effect on 1 January 2014. It replaced the One-Parent Family Tax Credit.


Guardianship rights entitle the parent of a child to make important decisions regarding that child, for example, decisions about the child's religion, education, medical treatment and where the child lives. All mothers, irrespective of whether they are married or unmarried, have automatic guardianship status in relation to their children, unless they place the child up for adoption.

Fathers married to the mother of their children also have automatic guardianship rights. A father, however, who is not married to the mother of their child or children does not have automatic guardianship rights in relation to that child or children. Find out more about guardianship here. Mothers who are sole guardians should make a will appointing guardians of their children in the event of their own death.

Temporary guardianship

If you are parenting alone, temporary guardianship allows you to nominate another adult for a brief period to care for your child should you become seriously ill and unable to care for your child.

You need to complete a special form to nominate a temporary guardian (pdf), in which you can set out your wishes on any limitations on the temporary guardian. The nominated person must then apply to the District Court if you cannot carry out your parental role due to serious illness.

Custody and access

Custody refers to the day-to-day care, residency and upbringing of children who are under the age of 18. The children reside permanently with the parent who has custody and the other parent is granted access to the children at agreed times, which can include overnight access. It is possible for parents to continue to have joint custody of their children after separation or divorce and for the children to spend an equal amount of time with each parent if the parents can agree and arrange this.

Access is the right of a child to maintain direct contact with the parent that they do not live with. It can include the child staying overnight either occasionally, on alternate weekends or during school holidays and for the parent and child going on holidays together.

When the parents of a child separate and they cannot agree on who should have custody of the child, the court decides. An unmarried mother is sometimes the sole guardian of a child born outside of marriage. However, it is not necessary for the father to have guardianship to be able to apply for access or custody.

Further information

One Family

8 Coke Lane
Dublin 7

Tel: +353 (0)1 662 9212
Locall: 0818 66 22 12


28 North Great Georges Street
Dublin 1

Tel: +353 (01) 670 0120

Courts Service

Customer Service

Phoenix House
15/24 Phoenix Street North
Dublin 7

Tel: +353 (0)1 888 6000
Page edited: 15 March 2024