Following our split, my spouse is trying to force me to leave the family home and my children. What can I do?

Jennifer peebles portrait.

Jennifer Peebles


Phone 01264 325823


It is often assumed that when two people separate, one will simply move out.

However, as family lawyers, we regularly advise clients who find themselves disagreeing with their ex about their pre-divorce living arrangements. While a divorce settlement will bring certainty for the future, the period leading up to that can be extremely difficult for people to manage – particularly when both feel strongly that they should remain in the family home.

People in your position generally have a legal right to continue living on the property. That could be because they own the house outright or jointly with their wife. However, even if your wife is the property’s sole owner, you would have what is known as ‘matrimonial home rights’. These rights, which apply to civil partners as well as to married couples, entitle you to carry on living in the home, provided there is no occupation order stating otherwise. For the greatest protection, you should register your home rights at the Land Registry.

Legal entitlement is one part of the picture. Another is the effect that continuing to live together would have on your life, on your wife’s and (above all) on your children’s. Where the separation is relatively amicable, there can be benefits in continuing to live together: there is only one property to pay for, there may be minimal disruption to children’s lives. But the more common scenario is that there is some tension, acrimony, and hostility. The question then is: is it worth staying under one roof? Might it do more harm than good?

Clients sometimes tell us that they are prepared to put up with the downsides of continuing to live together because they fear that, by moving out, they would be relinquishing control over their home. They worry that they wouldn’t get their share of the property on divorce, and even that moving away from their children would suggest they are less committed parents than the other. These are issues we help clients work through as they decide on the best practical arrangement, and one that will stand them in good stead for the future.

Moving out doesn’t, by itself, remove existing rights over the property (and parents remain parents, regardless of whether one has left the home). Divorce settlements, whether agreed upon between the parties or imposed by the courts, take all the circumstances into account. However, it is well worth speaking with a family lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your individual situation and to get advice on protecting your position as much as possible.

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