Where the matrimonial home is owned, perhaps the most valuable single right a divorcing person has is to establish the proportion of it to which he or she is entitled and have it transferred (Section 24 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973); and, while the marriage is continuing, the right to occupy it under Section 2 of the Matrimonial Homes Act 1983 if the other spouse is the legal owner, that is to say if the deeds are in his or her name. Right of occupation can be registered at the Land Charges Registry if the property is not registered land, and at the Land Registry it is registered by entering a caution against dealings with it. If the home is rented the position is different; where it is rented from a local authority the possibility of a transfer of the tenancy is restricted.
Where a matrimonial home is rented the husband or wife considering divorce will need advice as to the kind of protection which may be available. There are very many different forms of occupation of land and references to them in this chapter, apart from what is said in the following paragraph, are limited to those relevant in the context of matrimonial breakdown.
Someone who is permitted to live on premises when not a tenant may be a licensee. This means that he or she has no security, as for example in the common situation of a couple living in the home of the parents of one of them. The permission can be withdrawn at any time. A licence is distinguishable from a tenancy, for which are required a landlord and a tenant, identifiable premises (even if the premises consist of a single room), a period of time, which may not be specified but which can be ended by the landlord or tenant, and exclusive possession. This last requirement means that the tenant has the use of the premises to the exclusion of others. It may be a matter of debate whether the occupation is a tenancy or a licence.