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Married owner occupiers and the matrimonial home

To establish the rights a married person has in relation to a property, it must first be established whether or not the property is a matrimonial home and who is the owner of the property.

This content applies to Scotland

Definition of the matrimonial home

If a property falls within the definition of matrimonial home then each spouse's right to occupy it will be protected by matrimonial homes legislation. The rights and obligations bestowed by this legislation are explained in subsequent sections.

The matrimonial home is defined as a home which has been provided or made available by one or both of the spouses for them to live in together as the family home, or where the house has become a family home.

As well as covering houses and flats the definition also includes caravans and houseboats. The definition of a matrimonial home includes any ground or garden attached to the house and usually occupied with the house or otherwise required for the amenity or convenience of the house. [1]

The married couple do not have to have lived in the property for it to be a matrimonial home. The only requirement is that the home was intended for both spouses to live in. Thus if the couple were living abroad and they purchased a house in Scotland for them both to return to, that house would be a matrimonial home. As long as a couple remain married a matrimonial home continues to have this status even if the couple do not live in it together [2] (unless they cease to cohabit for a period of two years or more. For more information, please see the section on rights to occupy the matrimonial home).

If either spouse has bought or rented a house that is to be lived in separately from the other spouse then that would not be a matrimonial home. [3]

This legislation only applies to matrimonial homes in Scotland.

Owner of the matrimonial home

Any person whose name appears on the title deeds is an owner of the property. The property may be owned by one person or the couple may own it jointly. The title deeds must be registered in the Land register or recorded in the General Register of Sasines. These registers contain information about the ownership of all land in Scotland. Where it is registered depends on where in Scotland the land is, and when the ownership of the land last changed. To find out who owns a particular piece of land or a house, a search of either register can be conducted for a small fee.

Last updated: 6 August 2020


  • [1]

    s.22 Matrimonial Homes (Family Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1981

  • [2]

    O'Neill v O'Neill, 1987 SLT (Sh Ct) 26

  • [3]

    s.13(10) Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1985