In a ground-breaking decision which should be required reading for all unmarried couples who live together, a judge has ruled that a businessman gave his long-term partner and mother of his three children an investment property – to give her financial security and to compensate her for his refusal to marry her.
The man insisted that the house, which was bought for almost £500,000 in 2007, had been put in his partner’s name only to make it easier to raise mortgage finance. He had contributed about £140,000 to the purchase price and he argued that it had always been clearly understood between them that it belonged to him alone.
In upholding the woman’s claim, however, the judge noted the 20-year age gap between them and that she had been besotted by and wholly dependent on him. She was financially naive compared to him and he had dominated her during their 16-year relationship, consistently telling her that he had no intention of marrying her.
She had raised concerns about her future financial well-being with him and the judge found that he had agreed to give her the house as a quid pro quo for providing her with no marital security. In the circumstances, he had no beneficial or other interest in the property. The house had been sold since the couple separated and the judge awarded the woman the entirety of the net proceeds of sale, about £269,000. The man was also ordered to pay the action’s legal costs.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may wish to consider entering into a cohabitation contract to avoid any uncertainty. This is an enforceable agreement setting out what you would both want to happen in the event of your separation.