Itís 50/50 for Cohabiting Couples that Split-up in the UK
Cohabiting couples have moved a step closer to gaining the same rights as married couples, thanks to a Law Lords ruling that says they can win a half share in their joint home if they split-up.
Their Lordships have emphasised serious social problems arising from the failure of Parliament to provide legislation which protects cohabiting couples who are not married or have not entered into a civil partnership. These couples must fall back on to the complex law of trust to resolve property disputes if they split up. This is an expensive process that gives no discretion to the Judges to provide a ďfairĒ settlement, which they can do when marriages or civil partnerships fail.
In the judgment published yesterday the House of Lords decided that where the legal title to a property is owned jointly, there is a presumption that the equity in the property will be divided equally.
The Law Lords commented extensively on the problems which had been faced by Mr. Stack and Ms. Dowden, a couple from London, when they separated after 27 years. Their decision has simplified one area of concern arising from how the law of trust is to be applied to the division of a jointly owned property, by finding that there is a presumption that the property is held in equal shares even if there is no declaration of how the property is to be divided on the deeds. It remains the case that property jointly owned is always held on trust under English law.
Arguments can be made that parties jointly owning a property intended their interest to be unequal provided that there has not been an express declaration of trust on the deeds. In Mr. Stack and Ms. Dowdenís case the Law Lords decided that Ms. Dowden who had contributed more towards the purchase of the property should retain the 65% interest awarded to her by the Court of Appeal, despite the emphasis placed by the House of Lords on the presumption of equal division.
The Law Lords were satisfied that Mr Stack and Ms. Dowden did not pool their resources for their common good and therefore the case was unusual enough to allow Ms Dowden a greater share than 50/50.
The House of Lords also reiterated that where a property is owned in one personís sole name, there is a presumption that he or she owns the property outright and the onus to prove otherwise is on the person seeking to show that he or she has a share in the property.
For legal advice about cohabiting, please contact a Cohabitation Agreement Solicitor at Pannone LLP on 0870 164 2372
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