If your ex-partner has left your home
If your ex-partner has left your home, you may still need to decide who will stay there. You'll also need to work out who will pay your mortgage or rent.
If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened, you should get help.
Don’t try to agree what to do about your home without speaking to someone first.
If you're a man affected by domestic abuse you can call Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
If you’re unsure about what to do next, talk to an adviser.
Paying your rent or mortgage
You or your ex-partner will need to pay your next few mortgage or rent payments, even if you plan to leave - work out your options in the long term.
Work out your budget online to see if you can afford the rent or mortgage, and where you can make savings.
It's also work checking if you’re eligible for any benefits to help with housing costs after you separate - you’re more likely to be eligible if you plan to live alone.
If you’re already getting Housing Benefit - or the housing cost element of Universal Credit - you might be able to get a ‘discretionary housing payment’. These are extra payments to help with unexpected housing costs.
You should apply to your local council for discretionary housing payments. Show them your payslips, bank statements and letters from your landlord if they’re chasing you for rent.
If you’re getting Universal Credit, you’ll also need to report a change in circumstances - living on your own might affect your regular payments. Tell your local council about the change if you’re getting Housing Benefit.
How much you’ll get and for how long will depend on your circumstances and the local council. For example, if you’re stuck in a fixed tenancy agreement, you might get help until the tenancy ends.
If you can't agree who should stay in your home
You'll need to decide what happens to your home in the long term. You can find out more about what happens to your home when you separate.
Until then, you usually have the right to stay if you're:
- married or in a civil partnership
- named on the title deeds or tenancy agreement
If you aren't any of these things or are worried about your ex-partner coming back to live in your home, you can ask the court to decide who should be allowed to stay. This is called an 'occupation order'. It's free to apply.
The court will consider your circumstances, your ex-partner's and any children living there to decide who should be allowed to stay in your home.
You don't have to be living in the home when you apply. If you're staying somewhere else temporarily - like a friend's house - you can apply from there.
If your ex-partner comes back while you're not there, they'll be forced to move out if the court gives you the order.
How long an occupation order lasts depends on the circumstances and who is named on tenancy agreement or mortgage - the court will decide the length of the order.
If your ex-partner is threatening, violent or abusive
You might urgently need to stop them coming back so you can be safe in your home.
You should apply for a:
- 'non-molestation order' to protect you or your children from being harmed by your ex-partner
- 'occupation order' to give you the right to stay in your home and stop your ex-partner coming back
You can get this protection whether you're married, in a civil partnership or just living together. You can still apply if you've temporarily left your home.
Ask on your application to get this protection straight away because you or your children are at risk.
If you ask for urgent protection, you'll have a first court hearing without your ex-partner. At this hearing, the court might make a temporary decision called an 'interim occupation order'. You'll then need to come back for a final hearing and your ex-partner will need to be there.
Applying for an occupation order or non-molestation order
It is usually quickest and safest to apply online through Citizens Advice. If you can't apply online, you can apply by post or in person at the court.
Applying online through Citizens Advice
You can apply using a free tool called CourtNav that’s run by RCJ Citizens Advice - a Citizens Advice office which specialises in legal services.
The CourtNav system will help you find the best way forward and check if you can get legal aid to help with your legal costs. It will either:
help you find a legal aid solicitor if you can get legal aid
help you apply to the court yourself
The form will ask you if you're at risk in your home and help you ask for an 'emergency order' if you need the protection straight away.
You can start an application through CourtNav.
Applying by post, by email or in person
You'll need to fill in the application form on GOV.UK - you can type in your answers and then print it.
The form asks you for your:
- name and contact details
- ex-partner's name and contact details, if you have them
- mortgage details, if you have one
- reasons for applying
You'll also need to write down why you need an occupation order - for example because you can't afford to move anywhere else right now. This is called a 'witness statement'.
If you're at risk and need to get the protection straight away, ask the court to 'hear your application without notice being given to the respondent'. This is a tick box on section 3 of the form and is sometimes called an 'emergency order'.
Make sure you explain in your witness statement if your ex-partner is likely to:
- deliberately avoid the occupation order
- physically harm you or your children
- stop you from applying if you wait longer
If you don't want your ex-partner to know where you're staying, you can leave the address blank on the form. Write your address on this form on GOV.UK instead and attach it to your application.
Sign and date your witness statement and write 'I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true' at the bottom.
Send 3 copies of your application to your nearest court. You can send your application by email or post, or hand it in at the court. You can find contact details for your nearest court. They'll arrange for a copy to be sent to your ex-partner and will ask them to write their own witness statement.
Going to the hearing
The court will get in touch with a date for the court hearing. If you're worried about being in court with your ex-partner, you can ask to:
- use separate entrances and waiting rooms
- take someone with you for support
Your hearing will be held at your nearest family court. In most cases, the only people other than the court staff will be you, your ex-partner and either of your solicitors.
If you're making an emergency order because you're at risk in your home, your ex-partner won't be at the first hearing.
Coronavirus - if you’re going to court
Courts are changing the way they work because of coronavirus.
You won’t be forced to do the hearing from home if it’s not safe - there’s a space on your application form where you can tell them this. The judge might be able to make a decision without a hearing.
At the moment, court hearings could happen:
over the phone or by video call - these are sometimes called ‘remote hearings’
with some people in the court and some people joining over the phone or by video call - these are called ‘hybrid hearings’
If you go to the court in person, you’ll have to wear a mask or covering for your mouth and nose. If you don’t wear one, you won’t be allowed in the building. Some people don’t have to wear one – check who doesn’t have to wear a mask or face covering on GOV.UK.
If the court hasn’t told you how to attend your hearing, contact them to find out. You can search for their contact details on GOV.UK.
At the end of the hearing, the court will either decide:
- that your ex-partner must promise to do or not do something - for example let you stay in the home
- that they need more information – you might get a short-term order to protect you until you provide this information
- to issue an occupation order saying who can stay in the home
You’ll get a copy of any order the court issues through the post - it will say what your ex-partner can and can’t do.
The occupation order has to be ‘served’ to your ex-partner to make it official - this means they need to be given a copy of the order in person. Your solicitor will do this if you’re using one.
If you’re not using a solicitor, ask the court to serve the order for you.
Once your ex-partner has their copy, the rules they have to follow because of the order can be enforced. If you think your ex-partner does anything that goes against the order, you should call the police.