One Former Spouse with No Existing Right to Occupy

Part of Clause 32 – in the House of Commons at 10:45 pm on 17th June 1996.

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Photo of Mrs Diana Maddock Mrs Diana Maddock , Christchurch 10:45 pm, 17th June 1996

I am aware that the hour is late and that everybody is attempting to hurry. I will do my best, but these are important amendments concerning domestic violence—the one thing that we thought we were going to lose when the Bill fell before Christmas. The purposes of the amendments are to restore the provisions of the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill in relation to occupation rights, to give equal rights to cohabitants for protection from violence and to restore the principal criteria for eligibility between different types of occupation orders to the applicant's status in relation to their existing rights to occupy.

Clauses 33 and 35 are to be deleted, and the provisions for cohabitants and former cohabitants reinstated within clauses 32 and 34 so that, irrespective of marital status, the court should have a requirement to include an exclusion provision in the occupation order if the applicant and any relevant child is at greater risk of harm than the respondent and any relevant child. In other words, the balance of harm test should be reinstated as the paramount consideration in determining the matter. Occupation orders under all the clauses should be able to be extended in the time period and the stages set within the different clauses for an unlimited period, bearing it in mind that the court has complete discretion over the length of orders according to all the factors in the case.

Many people are concerned that the amendments to the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill—as set out now in part IV of the Family Law Bill—deny equal rights to protection from violence to those cohabitees with no existing legal right to occupy. Clauses 33 and 35 are very unfair, and will create hardship for those experiencing violence in longer-term common law relationships. That is what we are talking about.