Cohabitant fails to benefit from properties she shared with partner
The need for cohabiting partners to draw up agreements stating how their property and assets should be shared in the event of a break-up was highlighted in a recent case before the Court of Appeal.
It involved a couple who had been in a relationship for many years and had lived together since 2002.
When they separated in 2010, the woman claimed a share in three properties which were owned in her partner’s name, and a kennels business that was also in his name.
The couple had no cohabitation agreement so the judge had to decide on the evidence available. The woman claimed that she had made significant financial contributions by paying household bills, including mortgage repayments, from her wages.
However, the judge decided she could not have made a significant contribution in this way because her earnings were very low.
The woman also said that she had discussed having her name put on one of the properties but her partner put forward the excuse that it would have been too expensive to do so. She submitted that this proved that he accepted in principle that she was entitled to a share. If not for the expense, she would already be co-owner.
The judge had to decide who was the most credible witness and found that the woman’s evidence was not as convincing as her partner’s. Her claim for a share in her partner’s assets therefore failed.
The Court of Appeal upheld that decision, saying there was no reason to overturn the judge’s findings.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, much of the stress and expense involved on both sides could have been avoided if the couple had drawn up a cohabitation agreement while still living together and when their relationship was still strong.
Please contact Kirsty Bowers or Lorna Barry if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.