Around the time of separation, it can be really difficult to know who stays and who goes. It is important to know your rights and obligations at this difficult and uncertain time. Everyone’s circumstances are different and it is important that you are both as practical as possible, however often emotions get in the way.

Can one of us kick the other out?

It is possible but without a court order, no. You cannot be forced to leave the premise at the demand of the other party. However, if things get ugly at the home and domestic violence forms part of your separation, then the Court could make an Ouster Order to have the perpetrator moved out. It is better to come to an agreement and try and stay as amicable and sensible as possible. 

Can I change the locks?

Yes, technically, you can change the locks at any time. Depending on your circumstance this could be a great idea, particularly if your partner has moved out and you feel that they may just walk in at any time. If you underhandedly change the locks while your partner is at work or the like, then this could cause a lot of drama, so think twice about taking steps like this. If your partner is also a registered owner of the home, then they have the same rights as you. This means they can enter or re-enter the house, reside there if they so desire or change the locks themselves.

I have left home. Do I have to keep paying the bills?

In usual circumstances, the party who is residing in, and has sole occupancy of, the home will be expected to pay the necessary outgoings. This includes mortgage repayments, rates, utilities, and other bills. However, during separation parties need to be practical and consider the capacity of each person to pay these expenses and who is the primary carer of the children (if any). If you vacate the home and stop contributing to the outgoings and the mortgage, for example, is in your name, then you risk the mortgage going into arrears. The other risk is that your former partner may possibly have a claim against you for spousal maintenance. You should seek independent legal advice if this is the case. 

How can I get my partner to leave?

There is no way of forcing your partner to leave except through the appropriate Court Orders. To legally force your partner to leave the home, you will need to obtain an exclusive occupancy order from the court. These orders are usually only made in circumstances involving threats, domestic violence and/or safety concerns for one of the parties or their children.

Conclusion

The time immediately after separation can be a very difficult time for all parties. Keeping your cool and not acting impulsively when it comes to occupying the family home can go a long way helping you to reach an amicable quick property settlement. If you can remain level headed and try and negotiate a sensible outcome regarding who remains in the home and how the mortgage will continue to be paid, it will go a long way to helping you resolve all matters more easily on a final basis.