If your ex-partner has left your home
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.
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’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.
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
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.
If you’re worried about being in court with your ex-partner, you can ask on the form for ‘special arrangements’ to be made to protect you. For example, you might ask to:
have the hearing in separate rooms
be separated from them by a screen
enter the building through a different entrance
sit in a different area of the building to them while you wait for the hearing to begin
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 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, 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 application form. You can write your address on a different form on GOV.UK and attach it to your application form.
The court will get in touch with a date for the court hearing.
If you want to apply without your ex-partner knowing
In urgent situations, you can ask the court not to tell your ex-partner about your application. This is known as applying ‘without notice’ to your ex-partner.
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
If the court agrees to do this, they can stop your ex-partner coming back while you wait for the occupation order.
You can ask to apply without notice by ticking a box in section 3 of the form.
Going to the 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 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.
Your hearing will usually be held at your nearest 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
If you asked for your application to be made ‘without notice’ to your ex-partner, you’ll first go to a hearing without them. At this hearing, the court might issue an ‘interim’ occupation order. You’ll then have to go to a full hearing with your ex-partner so the court can make a final decision about your application.
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.