Everyone deserves the right to feel secure in their own home. That’s why victims of domestic abuse who also meet certain requirements, can apply to the Courts for an occupation order.
How we can help
For those who are seeking protection from an abuser, the Family Court can play a key part in providing a form of protection to those who need it most under provision of the Family Law Act 1996 (FLA 1996).
Family lawyers can advise on the best solution for individual circumstances and there are several orders available:
- non-molestation order, which prevents the abuser from contacting the abused;
- occupation order, which controls the occupation of the family home;
- prohibited steps order, which prevents an individual from doing specific actions (such as leaving the country with a child).
In this article, we will discuss occupation orders.
What are occupation orders?
These are aimed at ensuring the health, safety and well-being of you and your children by stating who can live in the family home or enter the surrounding area.
You can apply for an occupation order, if:
- you own or rent the home and it is, was, or was intended to be shared with a husband or wife, civil partner, cohabitant, family member, person you’re engaged to or parent of your child.
- you do not own or rent the home, but you’re married or in a civil partnership with the owner, and you’re living in the home (known as ‘matrimonial home rights’).
- your former husband, wife or civil partner is the owner or tenant, and the home is, was, or was intended to be your shared matrimonial home.
- the person you cohabit or cohabited with is the owner or tenant, and the home is, was, or was intended to be your shared home.
What does an occupation order cover?
These orders can have a very large scope and, for example, can cover one or more of these areas regarding the family home:
- Who has the right to stay.
- Who has the right to return.
- Exclude someone because of previous violence or abuse.
- Give a right to stay and prevent eviction during that time.
- Where both of you must remain in the home, it can define which parts of the home each of you has access to.
- Ensure that rights to the family home will continue after a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership.
Who can apply for an occupation order?
To apply, you must first prove that you are an have an ‘association’ with your abuser. This extends the relationship to include those who were: married, civil partners, living together, in an intimate personal relationship with the owner or tenant of the property, etc. It also includes relatives and in-laws, as well as those who have already started going through family proceedings.
The abuse does not necessarily have to involved physical acts of violence. It can also incorporate abusive behaviour, including intimidation, threats, harassment, pestering, stalking, or communicating with you; abusive language whether directly or indirectly e.g., via social media, sexual assault, and financial abuse, i.e., withholding money or using money to assert control over you.
The Court will apply two tests, the ‘balance of harm’ and ‘core criteria’, which will look at the housing needs and resources of the parties and any children involved, financial resources, conduct and the likely effect of the order on the health, safety, and well-being of any party or relevant children involved, and the conduct of the parties.
How long does an occupation order last for?
The court can make an interim occupation order which is a temporary order to last until a final order is made. Usually granted for 6-12 months, a final occupation order can be extended for longer in certain circumstances.
For more information on any family law issue or the types of orders which may be relevant for your circumstances, please contact us in confidence at one of our three offices in Newark, Southwell or Mansfield, or call our free phone-in Family Law clinic every Tuesday evening from 5pm on 01636 813411.
Please remember that initial help is at hand for anyone suffering from domestic abuse, whether they are an adult, or a child. We also have more information on available Domestic Abuse helplines and support on our website here.