Posted by Melissa Mitchell on 17th August 2023
Did Ken have the right to occupy Barbie’s Dreamhouse?

There were lots of interesting topics raised in the Barbie movie that play out in real life, in this article Melissa Mitchell ponders whether in the real world Ken had the right to occupy Barbie’s Dreamhouse.

I recently took my daughter to see the long awaited (in our house) Barbie movie. It didn’t disappoint and actually raised quite a few interesting discussion points for us, not least America Ferrera’s impressive monologue about the impossible standards placed on women.

One interesting (and legally relevant!) question my daughter asked me, was did Ken have the right to occupy Barbie’s Dreamhouse when she was in the Real World.

Ken and Barbie have been together since the early 60’s as boyfriend and girlfriend and did live together in their very own townhouse in 1974, however, within the film itself, the Dreamhouse is Barbie’s alone and Ken most definitely does not live there or own it, rather he had to ask permission to come into her house.

When Ken returns to Barbieland with notions of an assumed set of rights in his head, all the Kens move into the Barbie dreamhouses and seem to leave the Barbies to become only subservient background characters, presumably still living in their houses alongside them. Would this set up a situation in real life that the Barbies could look to the law to help them with? After all, family law is to help people, protect them and change people’s lives for the better.

The good news for the Barbies is YES!

There is an Act of Parliament, namely the Family Law Act 1996 which provides exactly this sort of protection. In the real world to be able to make a claim for protection, the parties need to be what’s called ‘associated persons’ and there needs to be a legal right for the “Barbie” to occupy the home. In this case, Barbie and Ken will be considered to be associated persons because they formally lived together (in legal terms, “cohabitants”) and now appear to be cohabitants again such that Ken could not ride roughshod over Barbie’s right to the peaceful occupation of her home. Barbie has an existing right to occupy the home as she is the legal owner of the property, so she can ask the court to make one of the following orders.

  1. Force Ken to allow Barbie to enter and remain in the Dreamhouse;
  2. Regulate the occupation of the Dreamhouse by both Barbie and Ken (if it is big enough for both of them and that there wouldn’t be any risks if they did so);
  3. Prohibit, suspend or restrict Ken’s exercise of his right to occupy the Dreamhouse;
  4. Make Ken leave the Dreamhouse;
  5. Exclude Ken from a defined area where the Dreamhouse is situated.

When making any of the above decisions, a court will take into account the following factors:

  1. The respective housing needs and housing resources of both Barbie and Ken (and any children if there were any);
  2. The respective financial resources of Barbie and Ken;
  3. The likely effect of any order, or of any decision by the court not to make such an order on the health, safety or well-being of Barbie or Ken (and any children if appropriate);
  4. The conduct of Barbie and Ken in relation to each other and otherwise.

It is likely in these circumstances that Ken would have been asked to leave the Dreamhouse as he had no legal interest in the property, had clearly been able to house himself sufficiently prior to moving in, his safety would not have been compromised by leaving the property and his conduct of moving in and making substantial changes to the property without Barbie’s consent would not have been looked on favourably. Thankfully, within the film, everything resolves itself without legal recourse and Barbie and Ken arrive at an amicable end to the situation. (It would have been interesting to see how a family lawyer was portrayed though !)

So, if you are experiencing any issues around difficulties arising from the occupation of a property, by reason of your partner’s unreasonable behaviour, we can advise you on how to gain the protection of the law to restore order to your life.

Need some advice? Get in touch today

Melissa Mitchell is a Trainee Solicitor at The Family Law Company. She is a Divorce and Finance specialist supporting clients at all stages of the divorce process and during the resolution of their financial separation.

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