Landmark ruling a warning to co-habitees, says family lawyer

Year Published: 2011

A family lawyer at SAS Daniels LLP is urging unmarried couples to make sure they have a written agreement in place before purchasing a property together after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court yesterday (9 November).

The highest court in the UK ruled that Leonard Kernott was entitled to only 10 per cent of the value of the house he shared with ex-partner, Patricia Jones.

The couple bought the house in joint names in 1985 but when they split up eight years later Mr Kernott moved out and Ms Jones continued to pay the mortgage alone.

This decision overthrows the Court of Appeal ruling last year which decided Mr Kernott was still entitled to half the value of the house because legally the couple still owned equal shares in the property. The house was last valued at £240,000 in 2008.

The Head of the family law team at SAS Daniels, said: “This latest ruling throws everything up in the air and the uncertainty anchors a real need for unmarried couples to make cohabitation agreements in order to avoid disputesif their relationship breaks down.

“While many will see this as a major step forward in the rights of unmarried couples it remains to be seen how consistent the court will be in future cases. Unless the law is reformed, the split of property for the two million plus cohabiting couples in England and Wales will be decided by each individual judge. The only way to ensure property is protected in a fair wayis to have an agreement in place.”

The judgement will affect unmarried couples in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has its own law regarding cohabiting couples.

If you require further information please contact a member of our Family law team on 01625 442100.

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