Relationship breakdown and domestic abuse

Getting a partner or ex-partner to move out

Your rights to ask a partner or ex-partner to move out depend on your relationship status, and who owns or rents the home you live in.

If someone does not agree to move out, use mediation or get legal advice from a family law solicitor to resolve a dispute.

If your partner or ex-partner has been abusive, you can ask the court to order them to stay away from you and your home.

Getting mediation

You can ask a mediator to help you talk to your partner or ex-partner.

Mediators will not force you to do anything you do not want to do. They can help you agree on next steps like:

  • whether someone will return home

  • if they'll return home temporarily until you can find somewhere else to live

  • whether you'll stay in contact with the person

Finding a mediator

Some councils will offer mediation services for families.

Find your local council’s website on mygov.scot

If the council does not offer this service, find a mediator on the Scottish Mediation website.

Forcing someone to leave

Your right to lock someone out of the home depends on:

  • your relationship status

  • who rents or owns the home

Your partner or ex-partner will have the right to return to the home and live there if:

  • you're married or in a civil partnership

  • they're a tenant or joint tenant

  • they're an owner or joint owner

If any of these apply and you change the locks then this could be an illegal eviction. The person excluded from the property could call the police to enforce their rights to re-enter the home. They should only do this if it's safe for everyone involved.

Check your tenancy agreement if you rent your home. It may say whether or not you can change the locks.

Making an abusive person leave

Domestic abuse is a crime. You can report it to the police and ask them to remove a dangerous person from your home. If the person is arrested they may be sent to prison.

If you have occupancy rights, you can also get a court order to make an abusive partner or ex-partner leave your home. Occupancy rights mean you have the right to live in the home because:

  • you're a tenant, including a joint tenant

  • you're married or in a civil partnership with the tenant

  • you own your home, including joint ownership

  • you're married or in a civil partnership with the homeowner

Forcing someone to leave home who has occupancy rights could be an illegal eviction.

To make an abusive person leave or stay away from your home, there are 3 types of orders you can consider applying for:

  • interdicts

  • non-harassment orders

  • exclusion orders

There will be a court hearing for all of these orders, and the person accused will be given the chance to defend themselves. If you need temporary protection until the hearing, you can ask the court for this, called an interim order.

A family law solicitor, domestic abuse support worker or the police can help you decide which to apply for.

Interdicts

You can ask the court for an order called an interdict if you need to protect yourself or your children from someone. An interdict tells a person what they can or cannot do, such as:

  • coming near your home, work or child’s school

  • doing anything to frighten, alarm or distress you or your children

If a person breaks the order, they can receive a fine or a prison sentence, depending on the terms of the interdict.

Non-harassment orders

These are sometimes referred to as restraining orders.

You can apply for a non-harassment order if you need protection from someone who has harassed you more than once. Harassment is behaviour that causes you alarm or distress.

If a person breaks an order they can be arrested, imprisoned or made to pay a fine.

Exclusion orders

The court can use these orders to stop someone coming to your home. They can last until:

  • the end of a marriage or civil partnership

  • the tenancy is ended

  • your home is sold

They can last up to 6 months if you're not married or in a civil partnership.

Getting legal advice from a family law solicitor

You could get free legal help, called legal aid, from a solicitor or legal adviser.

Pick an adviser or solicitor that takes legal aid. Otherwise you could have to pay expensive legal costs.

Check if you can get legal aid from a family law solicitor on the Scottish Legal Aid Board website.

We have guidance on getting free legal help.

Get help to pay the mortgage or rent

Get debt advice as soon as possible if you're worried you can no longer afford your mortgage or rent after splitting up from a partner. There are free advice services that can help you:

Court orders to split home payments

If you need someone to pay their share of the mortgage, you may be able to apply for a court order. You can do this even if they have moved out.

You can apply for a court order if either:

  • you're married or in a civil partnership

  • you have occupancy rights granted in court

To get a court order against a spouse or civil partner, you will need to get a family law solicitor. Search for a solicitor on the Law Society of Scotland website.

Last updated: 17 March 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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