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If your ex-partner has left your home

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

If your ex-partner has left your home, you’ll usually be able 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 the house, you should apply for an ‘occupation order’. This will let you live in the home.

You’ll also need to work out how to afford your mortgage or rent payments.

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 contact the Domestic and Sexual Abuse helpline 24 hours a day on 0808 802 1414..

Don’t try to sort out your separation on your own. If you’re unsure about what to do next, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Paying your rent or mortgage

You’ll 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.

Apply to your local Housing Executive for discretionary housing payments. Show them your payslips, bank statements and letters from your landlord if they’re chasing you for rent.

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.

Getting an occupation order

It’s free to apply you don’t normally need a solicitor.

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 for depends on the circumstances and who is named on tenancy agreement or mortgage - the length of the order will be decided by the court.

Applying for an occupation order

The first thing you’ll need to do is fill in the application form .

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you don’t feel confident applying on your own - an adviser can help you with the process and find a local solicitor if you need one.

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.

Write ‘I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true’ at the bottom of the page, and then sign and date the statement.

Send 3 copies of your application to nearest Domestic Proceedings Court. They’ll arrange for a copy to be sent to your ex-partner and will ask them to write their own witness statement, and one copy will be sent back to you to keep.

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 send it with 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 usually be held at your nearest housing possessions court. In most cases, the only people other than the court staff will be you, your ex-partner and either of your solicitors.

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.

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.

The court can serve the order for you, or if you think it’s safe you can do it yourself - this is usually quicker.

Serving the order yourself

If you plan to serve the order to your ex-partner yourself, you’ll have to fill in a ‘statement of service’ form after you’ve given it to them.

The form asks for:

  • your ex-partner’s name and address
  • how you served the order - for example you visited them at home or work
  • the ‘prescribed forms served’ - write ‘occupation order’ and the date it was issued

Take or send a copy of the form to your local court and another to your neighbourhood police station. This is so the police can get involved if your ex-partner breaks the order.

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