When the court makes a shared residence order relating to the children of a divorced couple and one of the couple is homeless, does that then make that parent a ‘priority need’ case for social housing?

The House of Lords recently considered this question and concluded that, in such circumstances, the answer is ‘no’.

The case arose when a father was ordered to leave the family home but a shared residence order was made in respect of three of the couple’s children. The order stipulated that the children should spend alternate weekends and half of their school holidays with each parent.

The father, who was homeless, argued that this made him a priority case for social housing on the ground that he was a person ‘with whom dependent children … might reasonably be expected to reside’.

In the view of the Council, it could not be expected to provide a second home for the family, despite the expressed view of the court that it was in the interests of the children to have two homes. There was a wider social policy issue and it could not allocate its housing resources on the basis of the decisions of the family court.

The Lords concluded that to determine the allocation of a scarce resource such as housing on the basis proposed would not be a rational social policy and that Parliament could not have intended such an approach when framing the legislation.

Custody of children and the need to have a family home are major issues on family break-up. Whether you live in owned or rented housing, good legal advice is essential.