Cohabitation: all’s fair in love and war?
With fewer couples marrying, and more simply cohabiting, there’s an ever-increasing need for legislation to recognise cohabitation.
The applicable law in cohabitation disputes where property is owned either by the parties together, or solely by one of them, will usually require an application to the Court under ‘property’ law, namely the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act.
To succeed with a claim under that Act, the non-owning party will need to establish that it was always intended that they would have a financial interest in the property. Or show some direct financial contribution into the purchase of the property.
If not, a judge would be highly unlikely to make any Order in favour of the non-owning party, as can be seen in the recent case of Pamela Curran.
Pamela lived with her partner and helped him in the running of his business for over thirty years, but was deemed not to have a financial interest in the property that had been purchased.
Although the case is going to appeal, on first reading it may be difficult to argue that the decision at first instance could be in any way ‘fair’, notwithstanding that it may be within the constraints of the applicable law as stated by Lord Justice Toulson.
Perhaps more than anything else, cases such as this show the importance of clarity between parties when entering a cohabitation relationship. Any agreement needs to be clearly recorded in a Cohabitation Deed.
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