Financial support for single mothers
These government grants help women who are raising their children alone
Single parents often have a hard time supporting themselves and their children. An overview of the most important financial assistance for single-parent families.
In one in five families, one parent takes care of one or more children alone. According to the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, most of these are mothers: nine out of ten single parents are women.
It is often difficult for single parents to reconcile work and family life, for example because there is a lack of childcare options or family-friendly jobs. The state therefore provides special support for single-parent families. We list the most important financial assistance specifically for single parents.
Who is considered a single parent?
A mother or father is a single parent if the child’s center of life is in the household and this parent decides on the child’s day-to-day concerns, even if custody is shared. If a child lives with the other parent at least 30 percent of the time, this is known as the alternating model, and neither the mother nor the father is considered a single parent in this case.
Single parents generally receive a full 14 months of parental allowance after the birth of a child, without the child’s other parent having to take parental leave themselves. By comparison, couples only receive this support benefit for 14 months if each parent takes care of the child for a certain amount of time. For both couples and single parents, the amount of parental allowance depends on how much income they had in the year before the child was born. A minimum of 300 euros is paid, and a maximum of 1,800 euros.
Parental leave must be registered in writing with the employer. An informal letter stating the period for which parental leave is claimed is sufficient for this purpose. Parents who were not gainfully employed before the birth of their child receive the so-called basic amount of 300 euros. The contact for financial support is the parental allowance office in the home district.
In certain cases, grandparents may also be temporarily released from work to care for their grandchild.
Grandparent leave may be requested if the child’s parent:
- is a minor and still in school
- Has begun, but not yet completed, an education before age 18
- is seriously ill and cannot care for the child himself or herself
- has died
- suffers from a severe disability.
However, grandma or grandpa are only entitled to time off from work if the grandchild lives in their household. They do not receive financial compensation. The young mother or father receives 300 euros in parental allowance per month.
Maintenance for the children
Every child is entitled to child support. Parents who live separately from their children must meet their maintenance obligations through monetary payments. The so-called «Düsseldorfer Tabelle» is usually used to calculate the amount of child support.
The Youth Welfare Office can help with the assertion of maintenance claims. There, the parent who mainly cares for the child can apply for assistance. The guardian — an employee of the Youth Welfare Office — determines the income of the person liable to pay maintenance, calculates the amount of maintenance and tries to reach an agreement. If court proceedings are necessary, the guardian can also represent the child.
If, despite all efforts, the other parent does not pay child support or does not pay enough, the Youth Welfare Office steps in with an advance on child support. For children under the age of six, 150 euros per month are paid; children between the ages of six and twelve receive 202 euros. After that, 272 euros per month are paid until the child reaches the age of 17. The Youth Welfare Office at the applicant’s place of residence is responsible.
The advance only has to be repaid if the parent liable for maintenance is able to pay. Otherwise, it is a deficiency payment that the state does not demand back.
First equipment for the baby
Anyone expecting their first child is faced with a long shopping list. A romper suit, a baby seat, a changing table, a stroller . What do you really need? And what should it all cost?
The advisory service Money and Household has compiled a checklist to help with planning and saving. For each item, an average price is given for new purchases and for second-hand goods. Because several hundred euros can be saved if not everything has to be brand new. Flea markets, swap meets or loans from friends help reduce spending in the first year.
Expectant mothers who receive unemployment benefit II or social benefits can apply for initial equipment for their child. This is a special need, which is applied for at the job center or social welfare office (more on the topic of special needs in the next point). Aid organizations such as Caritas, Diakonie or Pro Familia also pay lump sums to young mothers with low incomes.
Additional needs and special needs
Single parents who receive unemployment benefit II are entitled to so-called «additional needs for single parents». This is granted by the job center. This additional need depends on the number and age of the children. In 2019, it ranges from 50.88 euros to 254.40 euros per month.
Additional needs can be granted for expenses that are incurred regularly but cannot be covered by regular maintenance or the standard state rates. These include, for example, kindergarten fees, tutoring costs or expenses for medically necessary nutrition.
In the case of exceptionally high expenses that are incurred only once or for a limited period of time, single parents can claim special needs. These include, for example, the initial equipment for the baby described above and the cost of braces. However, the law requires that these costs must be unforeseeable, i.e. one could not have saved for them.
If single parents have increased costs of additional needs, they must take care of the claim as soon as possible. Additional needs cannot be claimed retroactively. Additional needs can be claimed retrospectively, but not more than one year later.
The relief amount reduces the tax burden for single parents who are entitled to child benefits or child allowances. Currently, 4008 euros per year are credited as a relief amount for one child. For each additional child living in the household, another 240 euros are added.
The following amounts are currently credited as a relief amount for one child per year
Those who move in with a new partner lose their entitlement to the relief amount for the entire calendar year.
Almost all single fathers or mothers who have custody of their minor children are placed in tax class 2. The relief amount is automatically taken into account.
The child supplement helps parents who can support themselves with their income, but not their children. This support is not only available to single parents. The child supplement amounts to up to 205 euros per child.
is the child supplement per child
The following criteria must be met in order for you to receive the child supplement:
- Your child is under 25, lives in your household and is unmarried
- You receive child benefit or a comparable benefit for your child
- Your income, together with the child supplement, is so high that you are not entitled to unemployment benefit II or social welfare benefit.
- Your gross income as a single parent is at least 600 euros and does not exceed the maximum income limit, which is calculated individually for each family depending on the cost of living.
The application is submitted to the Family Fund of the Federal Employment Agency.
Benefits for education and participation
Families who receive the child supplement or other transfer benefits such as unemployment benefit II or housing benefit are also entitled to benefits for education and participation from the so-called education package.
Upon application to the relevant office, families receive cash or non-cash benefits. For example, they can apply for help with school supplies for their children, for trips with the daycare center or school, for lunches or for membership fees in music clubs.
The municipalities often also provide vouchers for visits to the swimming pool or museum for families with low incomes, or grant reductions.
In order for single parents to work, they rely on flexible childcare options. In many municipalities, single parents are given priority in the allocation of childcare places. The costs for public facilities vary in the municipalities. They also depend on the parents’ income. Low-income earners can apply to the youth welfare office for a reduction in parental contributions.
Single parents who have very low incomes or are still in training or studying can also receive subsidies for childcare costs. The local youth welfare office will provide information about the amount of so-called «economic assistance» and what requirements must be met.
In addition, single parents can claim two-thirds of the costs for childcare — including for a childminder or au pair — against tax,
up to an amount of 4,000 euros per year. Even if a relative, for example grandma, takes over the care and payment is agreed for this, these costs reduce the tax burden of the single parent. This subsidy applies until the child is 14 years old.
State allowances for old-age provision
Old-age provision is certainly not the first thing on the minds of single mothers and fathers on a tight budget. However, if you don’t want to be a burden on your children in old age, you should start thinking about it as early as possible — and let the state help you save heavily. Parents benefit particularly from the state-subsidized Riester pension, because in addition to the basic allowance, they also receive allowances for each child.
Those who earn little or nothing can receive the full state subsidy starting at a contribution of 60 euros per year. The basic allowance is 175 euros per year, plus 185 euros for each child born by the end of 2007 and 300 euros for each child born after 2008.
Ask your savings bank for advice on all retirement savings options subsidized by the state and your employer.
Cures for mothers and fathers
Do you urgently need a break from the daily challenges of being solely responsible for your children? Mother-child cures and father-child cures are mandatory benefits of the statutory health insurance — this means that the health insurance company must pay for the cure if a doctor deems it medically necessary.
Single parents can take their children with them or go to the spa alone. For the time of the cure — usually three weeks — there is the right to a family nurse, who takes care of the child at home. In most cases, however, the children travel with them to the spa.
Home help during illness
If single parents fall seriously ill or cannot immediately take care of the children again after an operation, the health insurance company will pay for household help for a certain period of time for patients with statutory health insurance.
You can apply for this in writing directly to your health insurance fund. The attending physician must issue a certificate of necessity.
Brochures with further information
The «Bundesverband der alleinerziehenden Mütter und Väter e.V.» (Federal Association of Single Mothers and Fathers) provides information in the free brochure «alleinerziehend» (single parent) about pregnancy and birth, separation and divorce, reconciling child and career, social welfare and the costs of legal advice.
The free «Budget Compass for the Family» from the Money and Household Advisory Service helps single parents and couples with children to gain an overview of family expenses and to budget optimally with the right planning.