This page is a guide to how the courts might be able to decide what happens to the home in the short-term. The orders it can make will depend on your rights and individual circumstances.
What is an occupation order?
If you want the right to return to, stay in or exclude someone else from the home, you may be able to use an occupation order. Occupation orders can also enforce rights, as well as giving or ending rights to occupy a property. They can also be used to restrict someone’s use of a property, for example, if you and your partner have to live in different parts of the same home. Occupation orders usually last a specific length of time and are supposed to be a short-term measure.
Who can apply for an occupation order?
Most people can apply for an occupation order, including:
- owners, tenants or people with beneficial interest
- the spouse or civil partner of an owner, tenant or someone with beneficial interest
- people who cohabit with (live with) an owner, tenant or someone with beneficial interest.
The type of occupation order you can apply for depends on your rights, e.g which category you fall into from the above list. People from the first two categories can apply for any type of occupation order. People in the last category can only apply for certain types of occupation orders.
What can an occupation order do?
An occupation order could:
- allow you to stay in the home
- allow you to return to the home if you’ve left
- make sure that your partner only uses a certain part of the home
- prevent your partner from accessing the home
- prevent your partner from being able to visit the neighbourhood where your home is.
If you are an owner, tenant or someone with beneficial interest and you get an order preventing your partner from entering the home, this order will override the home rights that your partner may have. If the person that is prevented from entering the home is an owner, tenant or someone with beneficial interest, their home rights will be suspended until the order states otherwise.
How can I get an occupation order?
You can apply for an occupation order at either the Magistrates’ Court or the County Court. There are specific forms you will need to fill in: an application form, a form where you explain why you want the order, and, if you are eligible, a costs exemption form.
It is best to get advice before applying for an occupation order. A solicitor who specialises in family law can advise you what type of order you can apply for and what would be the best option in your circumstances. You may be eligible for legal aid if you are on certain benefits or have a low income.
Contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345 or find a family law solicitor through the Legal Adviser Finder.
How long might it take and what about costs?
Whether or not you have to pay court fees depends on your circumstances. You can read more about fees on the Gov.UK website. You will not have to pay a fee if you are receiving:
- Income support
- Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
- Universal credit
- Income-related Employment Support Allowance
- Pension credit (Guarantee credit)
Or if your gross income does not exceed a certain limit (which you can check at court).
If you do not qualify for an exemption from fees, you may still be eligible for a reduction, depending on your level of income.
You will need to complete Form EX160 and attach proof of your benefit or income.
How long your case will take will depend on your circumstances, and how busy the court is. You can ask the court to look at your case urgently.
How courts decide whether to grant occupation orders
The courts will make their decision based on a number of factors, including:
- whether you are married or in a civil partnership
- whether you have children
- what the housing needs of you and your family are, and whether you’ve got any alternative places to stay
- you and your partner’s income
- whether the order will have any impact on your health, safety or well-being
- your actions and behaviour
- whether you or your partner are tenants or owners.