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If your ex-partner is trying to make you leave

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

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 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.

If you don’t have anywhere else to go

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

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

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.

You’ll have to go to your nearest Domestic Proceedings Court to get an occupation order.

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 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.

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.

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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