Women covering her eyes and holding a hand out to protect herself
Court  |  Domestic Abuse

What is an Occupation Order?

Posted by
Walker Family Law
Read more

Domestic abuse can obviously be exacerbated by the fact that the parties are both still living in the same home. The law therefore enables the court to make an order regulating who may live in the family home. This is called an ‘occupation order’.

In most situations a victim of abuse can apply to the court for an occupation order, but just what can an occupation order do, and how will the court decide whether to make one?

What an occupation order can do

Exactly what an occupation order can do will depend upon the circumstances of the case, such as whether the parties are married, and whether the home is owned or rented.

However, whatever the circumstances there are basically four things that an occupation order can do:

1. Require the other party to allow the applicant back into the property, or part of the property. Obviously, this can be used where the applicant has been forced to leave the property due to the other party’s abuse.

2. Regulate the occupation of the property by either or both of the parties, for example by stating which parts of the property each party may occupy, where the accommodation at the property is such as to allow the parties to live separately within it.

3. Require the respondent to leave the property, or part of the property. The order may specify that the respondent can return to the property for certain defined purposes, such as collecting and returning children for contact.

4. Exclude the respondent from a defined area around the property.

The order may also prohibit the other party from obstructing or interfering with the applicant’s occupation of the property.

In addition it may include provisions for such things as who should maintain the property, who should pay the mortgage/rent/other outgoings, who can keep and use the furniture, and so on.

Exceptionally, an occupation order can be made without giving notice to the other party. However, the court will fix a hearing date and the other party can oppose the continuation of the order at that hearing.

Lastly, the order will state how long it is to last. Exactly how long it can last will depend upon the circumstances of the case.

How will the court decide whether to make an occupation order?

The specific factors that the court is required to take into account before deciding whether to make an occupation order will again depend upon the circumstances of the case.

However, in general the court will consider all of the circumstances of the case, and in particular:

1. The housing needs and resources of both of the parties and any children. Clearly, for example, a party looking after children will have greater housing needs than a party not looking after children.

2. The financial resources of both parties – one of the parties may, for example, be in a much better position financially to rehouse themselves.

3. The likely effect any order, or not making an order, will have on the parties and any children. If, for example, the other party has nowhere else to live, then obviously making an occupation order requiring them to leave the home and therefore making them homeless will be a far more serious matter. On the other hand, if the court considers that the victim and any children may suffer harm by the other party remaining in the property then it will be more likely to order the other party to leave.

4. The conduct of the parties in relation to each other. Obviously, the more serious the abuse by the other party, the more likely it is that the court will order them to leave the home.

How can we help?

If you are the victim of domestic abuse you should seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. We can provide you with that advice.

For more information about our domestic abuse services, and how to get in touch, see this page.