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If your ex-partner is trying to make you leave

This advice applies to England

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. 

You can call Refuge or Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time. 

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.

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.

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 can't agree who should stay in your home

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.

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 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 your ex-partner is trying to make you leave even though you have home rights, you can ask the court to consider everyone who lives in the home and decide who should be allowed to stay there. This is called an 'occupation order'.

An occupation order is temporary - the court will decide how long it will last.

You will need to decide what happens to your home in the long term when you divorce or dissolve your civil partnership.

You can find out more about what happens to your home when you separate.

If you’re not married or in a civil partnership

If you're named on the deeds or tenancy agreement, you have a right to stay in your home.

If you're not named on the deeds or tenancy agreement, you might feel you need to stay - for example, if you have children who live there.

You can ask the court to decide who will stay. This is called an 'occupation order'. If you've already left, you can apply for an occupation order to get back in. 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.

An occupation order usually only lasts for 6 months. You might be able to renew it but this depends on your circumstances. You can find out about your long-term options when you separate.

If you're not sure whether to apply for an occupation order, talk to an adviser.

If your ex-partner is threatening, violent or abusive

You might urgently need them to move out so you can stay in your home and be safe.

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, get your ex-partner to leave and stop them 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 or your ex-partner has 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 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.

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’

You can check how to prepare if the court asks you to join a hearing by phone or video call.

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.

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.

Find out what to do about your home when you separate.

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