The home in which a husband and wife have lived together. When only one of the spouses owns the matrimonial home the Family Law Act 1996 gives the nonowner certain home rights, which may be enforced by court order (see occupation order). These rights include a right to live in the matrimonial home while still married. They will bind third parties (such as banks and building societies) if they are registered as a Class F land charge (in the case of previously unregistered land) or if they are protected by a notice (in the case of registered land) – see registration of encumbrances. The same rights have now been extended to same-sex couples who have registered a civil partnership. In Scotland similar rights have been granted (for a limited period only) to unmarried cohabitants, under the Matrimonial Homes (Financial Provision) (Scotland) Act 1981. When the legal estate is registered under the Land Registration Act and the wife is in actual occupation, she may also be protected against eviction by a third party if she has an interest in the land, even though she has not registered a notice or caution. Such an interest may be acquired by virtue of her contributions to the mortgage payments or, sometimes, to household expenses, as well as by making improvements in the matrimonial home.
Upon divorce, nullity, or separation the court has wide powers to make orders transferring the matrimonial home from one party to the other or altering their rights in it, in particular to provide for dependent children. County courts and magistrates' courts have powers to grant an occupation order that may exclude a spouse from the matrimonial home (see domestic violence) as well as making an order for sale of the matrimonial home in order to redistribute resources.