If your ex-partner is trying to make you leave
If you live with your ex-partner and the relationship ends, you’ll usually have the right to stay in the home if you’re:
- married or in a civil partnership
- named on the title deeds or tenancy agreement
You should work out what to do with the home you shared with your ex-partner.
If you aren’t married, in a civil partnership or named on the deeds or tenancy, there might be things you can do to stay in your home for a while.
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, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.
If you don’t have anywhere else to go
Your local authority might be able to give you emergency housing until you find something more permanent, or help you get back into your house if you need to.
Check if you can get emergency housing on Shelter.
If you’ve left things in the house that you need to get, find someone you trust to help you - call the police on 101 if you need extra support.
If you need help applying for emergency housing or you don’t know where to go, contact your nearest Citizens Advice - an adviser can help you try and find somewhere to stay.
If you’re married or in a civil partnership
If you’ve already tried to sort things out with your ex-partner and are finding it difficult to decide who is going to live in the property, you can get help reaching an agreement. A specialist called a ‘mediator’ can help you and your partner find a solution without going to court.
If mediation doesn’t work, you can take your partner to court.
You might be able to stay in your home while your separation is finalised by a court even if your name is not on the deeds or tenancy agreement. This is because you have ‘home rights’ - sometimes called 'matrimonial home rights'.
If you rent, you might get your home rights if you take your partner to court.
If your ex-partner owns your home and your name isn't on the deeds, you can usually register your home rights yourself - find out how on GOV.UK.
If you’re not married or in a civil partnership
You should apply for an ‘occupation order’ if you want to stay. If you’ve already left, you can apply for an occupation order to get back in.
An occupation order usually last for 6 months, but you can apply for it to be renewed. It’s free to apply.
Applying for an occupation order
Coronavirus - if your case involves domestic violence
You can apply for an occupation order by post or online through Citizens Advice.
Applying 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
You can start an application through CourtNav.
Applying by post
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 out a ‘witness statement’ and attach it to the form. This is an opportunity to explain why you need an occupation order - for example because you can’t afford to move anywhere else right now.
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. They’ll arrange for a copy to be sent to your ex-partner and will ask them to write their own witness statement.
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 instead and attach it to your application.
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 have the hearing in separate rooms.
Speeding up the process
If you want to stop your ex-partner coming back while you wait for the occupation order, 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’.
You’ll need to explain in your witness statement that 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
Going to the hearing
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.
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
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.
What to do next
When you’re ready, you’ll need to decide what to do about the home if you want to stay there alone - for example change your tenancy agreement.