22nd May 2017

How do you get your spouse or partner out of the house if you split up?

Splitting up is tough, but being forced to live in the same house with the person you have just split up with can make it all the worse. However, what do you do if they will not move out?

The answer is not straightforward: the law in England and Wales tends towards preventing people from being forced out of their home. However, there are a number of options.

If there is domestic violence or abuse, the law can remove the abuser quite quickly, no matter who owns the house. Indeed nowadays the police have considerable powers of their own to deal with this. The best advice is always to get some proper professional guidance from a specialist lawyer at an early stage, but if you are ever scared or in danger do not mess around: dial 999 immediately and summon the police.

Otherwise the situation is more difficult to resolve quickly. Just because two people are not getting along does not mean someone is automatically ordered to leave. Indeed it is fairly standard advice from family lawyers not to move out of the house unless it is part of an overall agreement.

The law is different depending upon whether you are married/in a civil partnership or not. It also does depend upon whether the house is owned or rented, and whether that is in joint names or in the name of just one of you. If the property is rented jointly you need to be careful as either of you can give notice to the landlord to terminate the tenancy – it does not have to be done jointly.

Packing up the other person’s belongings and leaving them on the street sounds very satisfying, but can cause serious problems, and even possibly criminal offences. Equally, if someone is refusing you access to your home, you must be very careful not to use any kind of force (against property  – e.g. breaking a window – or people) to get back in: you can actually commit a criminal offence by breaking into your own home, even if it is owned in your sole name.

As you can see, it is a complex situation with a lot of potential pitfalls. A court order might be able to get them out, or you back in, quickly, but early advice and planning is highly recommended.  Just because you have been to see a lawyer does not mean you have to do anything, and nobody will know unless you tell them.

This situation is one of many where a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement, or a cohabitation agreement, can save a lot of trouble and upset. Courts are increasingly enforcing these, and they generally cost a lot less than resolving trouble later.

If you have any queries with respect to this issue, or any other family law topic, please contact Tim Melville-Walker at .  Tim is a solicitor and partner in MacDonald Oates and the head of our Family Department. He is a Resolution Accredited Specialist and member of the Law Society Advanced Family Law Panel.

N.B. Please note that the above information is a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend seeking specialist legal advice on your own particular circumstances