In-law Evictions? David Renton blogs on the boundaries of occupation orders

Can I evict my mother in law?

Possibly not, it seems, unless you have an interest in land. The issue arose in a case I was recently in. Mother alleged domestic violence against father and his family members and sought non-molestation and occupation orders limiting his and his mother’s access to the family home. By the time I had been instructed, an interim ex parte application (albeit to last only for a week) had already succeeded.

Father, a privately paying party, supported the conversion of the interim order into a final order. Mother in law objected. She was the freeholder. Suffering from long-term illness, she had spent large sums of money converting parts of the property to make them suitable for her use.

Working through the different sections of the Family Law Act 1996, it was clear that section 33 did not apply (mother had no interest in the land), nor could sections 34-38 (all of which are capable of binding only present or former spouses or cohabitants).

With some evident regret, mother withdrew her applications for an occupation order at court, when this was pointed out to her, and a complex compromise was reached on terms favourable to mother in law.

But what struck me about the case was this: before making her application, mother had not stopped to ask where it was in the power of the court; and neither indeed had the District Judge, when making his initial order.

David Renton



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