A recent case which has been taken all the way to the Court of Appeal has raised the profile of the ever lurking legal issues for cohabitees.
In the case of Pamela Curran and Brian Collins the parties had been together for over 30 years until they separated in 2010. During their cohabitation, the couple had worked together at a boarding kennels and cattery business in Kent, known as the Haven.
The Haven was purchased in 2007 for £750,0000 in Mr Collins’ sole name – he was the sole legal and beneficial owner of the business and of the property which the couple cohabited in together. When the parties separated, Ms Curran found herself homeless and without a penny to her name.
Ms Curran claimed an equitable right in The Haven based on her assertion that she had worked for the business for many years and believed herself to be a partner in the business. She also asserted that the couple had previous conversations regarding the property an
d she was of the understanding that she should be entitled to a half share due to her contributions towards household bills and mortgage payments.
Ms Curran’s appeal was dismissed and the Judge concluded that no business partnership had ever been established and despite sympathising with Ms Curran, the current laws in place did not protect her as an unmarried person.
Ms Curran mistakenly assumed that if the relationship was ever to break down, she would be entitled to her ‘fair share’ of the business and the property.
Unfortunately so many cohabitees fall into this legal trap – although you may have some sort of spoken or unspoken agreement that you each will be fairly compensated should you separate, in the eyes of the law, unless an agreement is legally in place sadly, you often end up in a rather sticky situation like Ms Curran. Unlike a marriage any assets accumulated during a relationship are not automatically joint assets - upon the breakdown of a relationship, you simply retain what assets are legally registered in your name. At present there simply are no automatic rights and no laws in place to protect cohabitees like Ms Curran.
If you are a cohabitee and are concerned about your legal rights, contact one of our family solicitors today on 0208 252 7373 for a consultation to discuss your matter in detail with you.
Pinder Reaux & Associates