Your rights to the family home
If you and your partner split up, your rights with respect to the family home depend on what type of home you live in and whether you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting when the relationship breaks down.
If your home is owned or mortgaged
The following info applies if the family home is owned by you or your ex-partner, separately or jointly. It also applies if the home is mortgaged or owned outright.
You may have a share in the value of the property that you used to live in with your ex-partner. This is often called a financial interest. You may have a financial interest in the property even if your name is not on the title deeds.
If you are married or in a civil partnership you need to take action to prevent your ex-partner from selling or mortgaging the property without your knowledge. If you are married or in a civil partnership, you should register your matrimonial home rights on the title deeds of the property by contacting the Land Registry. You can do this yourself or get help from your local free advice centre, such as Citizens Advice.
If you are not married or not in a civil partnership and your name is not on the title deeds for the property, you may still be able to show that you have an interest in the property. For example, because you have made a financial contribution. It is important to get specialist advice from a solicitor. You may be able to register your rights of occupation on the title deeds with the Land Registry.
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If you jointly own the home with your ex-partner you both have a right to stay in the home. You also have the right to return to the property. If you have been excluded from the home, you can ask a court to enforce your right to return, unless a court has already made an order preventing you from entering.
If the mortgage is in joint names, both people are jointly and solely liable for mortgage payments. This means if your partner stops contributing to mortgage payments, your mortgage lender can ask you to pay the full amount. If your name isn't on the mortgage and you stay in the home, you'll need to keep up mortgage payments. If you're married and not liable for mortgage payments, you have the right to make payments towards the mortgage and your lender has to accept them.
If your ex-partner is violent and refuses to leave your home you may be able to apply for a court order to help you stay in your home and keep your ex-partner away. This is called an occupation order and can exclude your ex-partner from living in the home. You can also apply for a court order to determine who uses which parts of your home.
If the home is owned by your ex-partner, see the information on protecting your share of the family home (above) for how to prevent the property being sold or mortgaged without your knowledge.
If you are married or in a civil partnership you both have the right to stay in the marital home while you are still married, even if you do not have an interest in the property. This is called a right of occupation. Rights of occupation also apply to same-sex couples registered as civil partners.
If you are not married or not in a civil partnership and you have an interest in the property (for example, because you have made financial contributions towards it), you have the right to remain in or return to the home. You can obtain a court order to enforce this right.
If you do not have an interest in the property, you do not have an automatic right to remain there. In this situation, your ex-partner can give you reasonable notice to leave, 28 days is considered by the courts to be reasonable. You may want to get legal advice to see whether a court order can be made allowing you to remain in the property for the benefit of your children.
If your home is rented
If you have a joint tenancy with your ex-partner you have a right to stay in the home and a court can enforce this right. If your ex-partner gives the landlord notice that they intend to leave the property, this may also end your tenancy. Your landlord may agree to transfer the tenancy to your name only. If your ex-partner leaves and refuses to pay rent, you are liable to pay all the rent and any arrears that are owed, even if you are still joint tenants.
If the home is rented in your ex-partner’s name, you can apply to court for a tenancy to be transferred into your name if it is for the benefit of the children. You can apply whether you are married or cohabiting. You will need legal advice to do this – see the list of useful organisations.
If you are married or in a civil partnership you have the same rights as your ex-partner. The court may order the tenancy to be transferred to you on divorce or on dissolution of a civil partnership.
If you are not married or not in a civil partnership you do not have an automatic right to stay in the home unless a court order is made. If you have to leave the property, you can apply for housing from your council as a homeless family.
If you are considering leaving the home, you should think about where you will live over the following months and years, not just the next few days or weeks. Unless you have to leave urgently because of a risk of violence, you should also seek legal advice about claiming any financial interest you may have in the home before you leave.
If you apply to your council for housing it may not assist if you have left your home voluntarily. They may argue that you have made yourself intentionally homeless and refuse to provide housing. This should not apply if you have left the home because of violence or a fear of violence.
Protect joint assets
If you are married or in a civil partnership, you can apply to court for an order to prevent your ex-partner selling or giving away property or other assets.
You will usually have to start divorce (dissolution for civil partners) proceedings first and you will need to provide as much information as possible about the assets and prove to the court that they are likely to be sold or otherwise disposed of. You should get help from a solicitor to do this.
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