One of the questions people find themselves asking and seeking advice from a Family Law Specialist about after they separate is how they can move the other person out of the house. When a couple are separating, if the property is in joint names the other person can only be removed against their will in cases of quite extreme domestic violence. This will often need to have a physiological impact on the children or there needs to have been quite serious actual physical violence. In those circumstances someone would apply to the Court for an Occupation Order. The criteria or the benchmark is high and the Court will consider whether it is appropriate to exclude the perpetrator for a fixed period of time.
Many people are finding selling their homes, since 2008, particularly difficult and this can often mean that people who are separating have to remain under the same roof. The joint owner of the property cannot be made to move out other than in the circumstances described. If a couple are married, even if the house is just in the other person’s name, then someone will have a right of occupation so cannot be made to leave either. This often means that people have to grin and bear it and get on as best they can for their own emotional wellbeing and particularly that of their children
If someone does decide to leave, Family Law specialists are frequently asked if the locks can be changed. The strict legal, and correct answer is that they cannot, because a joint owner cannot be excluded from the house that they own. In some circumstances however this is undesirable as the situation can be abused and someone’s privacy can be invaded. What often happens is that someone loses their keys and then the locks are changed that way. Burglar alarm codes can however be changed.
If you are the person who has been locked out of a property, what can you do? The obvious answer is you change the locks back. You call a locksmith and provide your partner with a key. In circumstances where this becomes difficult the Police are often involved.
It goes without saying that the best course of action is for you to agree who will live in the house and pay for what and for how long. Most people do realise that it is best that someone leaves but sadly on some occasions there is not the money to rent two properties and therefore people do have to live in the house until it is actually sold.
If you find yourself facing any of these problems you should speak to or e-mail Helen Thompson or Laura Harrison at Keoghs Solicitors.
HELEN THOMPSON – SOLICITOR
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