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What is an occupation order?

An occupation order is a court order that is used to regulate who can live in the family home. 

What does an occupation order cover?

The order enforces who has the right to live in the home, who is excluded from it, and it can also regulate who can enter the property and its surrounding areas. 

It can be used to gain the right to a return to a property, for example, if a spouse has changed the locks and is denying you access to the family home. 

Or it can be used to help clarify the right for one party to remain in the house and who is going to pay the mortgage and bills. However, it does not change the financial ownership of the property. 

The order can also set out who lives in which parts of the home, (if you both need to live in different parts of the same house).

Why might I need an occupation order?

An occupation order is often used in circumstances where there has been domestic violence as it decides who can live in the house. 

Under the Family Law Act 1996 (section 33 and 35 to 38), victims of abuse can apply for a non-molestation order which prevents the victim being pestered, harassed or molested, but it does not deal with the issue of who can occupy the family home. An occupation order offers that protection. 

Who can apply for an occupation order? 

Occupation orders are not granted lightly, and three requirements must be met: 

You (the applicant) must have a right to occupy the property. I.e. you must be the joint or sole owner or tenant, or you have “matrimonial home rights” due to your marriage and occupation of the property as your home. 

The property has been the home of you and the other person (the respondent) 

You and the respondent must be “associated” (S62-s63 of the Family Law Act 1996), i.e. you must be: 

  • Married or in a civil partnership,  

  • Formerly married or in a civil partnership,  

  • Engaged to be married or be in a civil partnership, 

  • In a relationship for more than six months,  

  • A close family member,  

  • The children (living in the home) parent or grandparent. 

What is the occupation order cirteria?

The court will grant an order of occupation if it believes the applicant will suffer significant harm if the order is not made. 

An occupation order will only be granted in serious circumstances because it effectively prevents a person who is legally entitled to live in their own home from doing so. 

What does the court consider when making their decision?

The court considers the housing needs and finances of the parties and their behaviour along with the safety and wellbeing of children and the mental and physical health of the applicant. 

They will also apply the balance of harm test, which balances the harm the applicant or child would suffer if the order were not granted. 

How to apply for an occupation order? 

To apply for an occupation order, you need to complete a Form FL401 “Application for a non-molestation order/an application for an occupation order” and file this at Court. 

View a sample of Form FL401

How long does it take to get an occupation order?

An application for an occupation order can be made in 24 hours in an emergency. 

How much does an occupation order cost?

There is no requirement to pay a fee to file for an occupation order to the court. There will be solicitors fees to consider and the legal costs can vary depending on whether or not the case is defended and a contested final hearing is necessary. In these cases, Legal Aid can be available. 

Unfortunately, Stowe Family Law does not have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency and is therefore unable to offer legal aid to our clients.

There is a searchable list of approved legal aid solicitors and law firms on the government’s legal aid website. 

How long do occupation orders last?

Occupation orders are made for a specified period and can be extended for a maximum of 6 months at a time.  

What happens if the occupation order is broken?

Breaking an occupation order is not automatically a criminal offence unless a power of arrest has been attached to the order. If this is the case, then breaking the order can result in a fine or prison sentence. 

A power of arrest is attached to the order by the court if the respondent has used violence or threatened violence against the applicant. 

If there is not a power of arrest attached to the order, then you can apply to the court for a warrant of arrest. To achieve this,  you may have to give evidence and satisfy the court that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent has breached the order.

Domestic abuse & occupation orders

Occupation orders are often used to protect the victims of domestic abuse. 

If you are looking to file an occupation order due to experiencing domestic abuse, violence or other forms of control in your relationship, please do seek help. 

You are not alone, and there are several helplines at the bottom of this article. 

If you or anyone with you is in immediate danger, please call the police 999. 

Get in touch 

If you wish to make an application for an occupation order or you would like further advice, please do contact our Client Care Team here to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers.

Helpful contacts 

National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247

The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327

The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994

National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428

Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123

Please note that Stowe Family Law does not necessarily endorse the organisations listed.

Mark Christie is the head of Stowe Family Law’s dedicated Childrens Department. Mark has specialised in family law for more than 35 years and provides clients with a wealth of practical experience.

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As the UK's largest family law firm we understand that every case is personal.


  1. Andrew says:

    My recollection is that if the parties are not married (perhaps only if the Respondent is the sole owner?) there can only be one extension for six months, making a year in all. I think that that is the effect of the arguments when the law was reformed (or in any event changed!) in 1996.

  2. Tom says:

    I wish this were true. An oo was made against me, merely because I said “my house” 5 times in the box. Ex’s barrister said it was evidence of controlling behaviour. Judge was looking for any reason to give the oo and latched onto that. Never mind ex lied in the box. There were no serious circumstance at all. The evidence she gave was shown to be untruthful by my barrister. Women have fought hard for equality. It’s about time Family Court applied equality properly instead of seeing men as perpetrators and women as victims automatically. There are genuine cases out there. A man’s life can be totally wrecked in the space of a few hours in Family court. She had the affair and expected ME to leave. It’s a disgrace.

    • Tom says:

      I hear you. I married a woman from a foreign country and little that I know she was after a visa and money. She made false domestic violence accusations against me, got me removed from my property and made me homeless. The purpose of the law is to serve justice for all, but when the law is manipulated by women to extract money out of honest men than clearly there is something wrong with the system.

  3. Sonal says:

    I agree with Tom. I am doctor , the persons 6 civil partner (3 married woman in India of which one is dead and 2 alive ) He used me as passport and got occupation order , fortunately it does not say I can’t say but he wants a case so he can get Asylum. I have every proof but he has time and getting free money from Universal dread it without visa and I AM HOMELESS AS I am scared to go in my own house
    Justice system sucks ,I am sorry the very people who are served are abused and no one to support

  4. Matt says:

    My partner was always very demanding, some would say controlling; she fell very ill and I stood by her side, fed, cleaned and cared for her while I did a full time job.

    Once she had recovered she mentioned about taking a holiday away from things, including me; on that holiday she cheated on me and I found out while she was still away on holiday due to a shared laptop that unknowingly showed me a booking email with her and another man’s details on it.

    She come back to the house and within a few months had her family around to assault me while I was laid up in bed with the flu; since then I have not been able to return home.

    I own the house in my sole name but I was told this doesn’t matter, she lives there and I pay for everything while I struggle to find places to stay.

    She continues to delay the divorce and the consent order we had completed months ago; via a solicitor exchange I transferred her money to enable her to move out… this never happened, so now I am out of pocket with a house I can’t stay in.

    The system has almost broken me, I am told that I cannot get an occupational order as it’s not my ex but her family who assaulted me, and because my ex may or may not have outstanding ill health it is best that she continues to occupy the home…. But for how long? I have no idea and one day I will run out of money as she has refused to remove me from joint bank account and is financially abusing me by missing her own bills deadline leaving marks against my credit record which is already stretched trying to make ends meet…. I will either make this all work or I will fall trying

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Matt. I’ve passed your comments on to our client care team to see if you need any advice on your situation. Best wishes

  5. Lisa says:

    If my partner did the occupational order on me but I have proof of him inviting me round multiple times and proof I was there even overnight what happens is it enuled? He did it under domestic abuse of drinking when sober I’m not abusive at all and been sober 4 months on proof of a blood test

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