If I leave my husband will I lose my property rights?

Our family home is in my husband’s name. He has provided well financially for us but he has also mentally abused myself and my daughters. I want to move out when my youngest goes to university but I am worried I will lose my rights to the property if I leave. What should I do?
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Question: My husband of 22 years is a successful businessman who has provided well financially for my two daughters and myself. However, he has also mentally abused all three of us and has now become much worse — a couple of months ago he physically abused me.
We live in a beautiful house, but I want to move out as soon as my youngest goes to university. Our home is in my husband’s name and I am worried I will lose all my rights to the property if I leave. Perhaps I should change the locks to keep him out instead?
Answer: If the abuse from your husband is ongoing, then you should seek support and protection through a charity such as Women’s Aid. As you are married, you are entitled to live in the house regardless of the fact it is owned by your husband.  

You could apply to the family court for an order that your husband should leave the house so that you would live in it alone. This order, known as an occupation order, is made if the court is satisfied that you are suffering harm by your husband living with you at the property. This is the only way to remove your husband from the house — changing the locks will not give you that security.
If you decide that you still want to leave the house, then you will not lose your rights over it. You are still entitled to bring a claim against the value of the property as part of any divorce proceedings. You should, however, try to secure financial help from your husband before you leave, which could go towards the cost of alternative accommodation.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona is legal director in the real estate group of Foot Anstey LLP in Exeter (fiona.mcnulty@footanstey.com)
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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