9 2 mins 14 yrs

Interesting to read that a man has been instructed by a court to sell his home and give his ex-partner half the proceeds – even though they aren’t married. 

Carl Barron lived with Lynne Fowler for 17 years in the home where they raised their two children. But despite the fact that he paid for the mortgage, the Court of Appeal decided she is entitled to half of the £150,000 property. The ruling could set a legal precedent that unmarried couples who live together and buy a home must split the proceeds equally.

Wonder what you make of this one? Is it reasonable that the same criteria that would apply to a married couple also apply to an unmarried couple? Will this impact into the decision people make to move in together? If one partner makes no financial contribution to paying for the house, should that partner be then rewarded with half the value of the asset when it is sold? What say you?

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  1. I think the fact that the house ownership was registered jointly makes it pretty clear.

    It also says she worked and spent money on family food, holidays etc – so that was money he didnt have to spend on those things. She could equally have paid the mortgage and left him to buy the shopping.

  2. Frank,

    Sure, fair point. But did he not also spent money on family food, holidays etc? Is one set of payment equal to the other?

  3. David,

    Well I am sure they had a budget and it could have been worked out how much each contributed and that would be one way to apportion property in the absence of any agreement…especially over a period of about 20 years that seems reasonable. But in this case if they registered the house jointly then that means they made a decision to own it equally anyway.

    Where the real problems are is where the house is not registered jointly. This used to be an issue within marriage as well I think (might be thinking of Irish law there), even though legally marriage is a property contract as much as anything else.

  4. >>She could equally have paid the mortgage and left him to buy the shopping.<<

    That’s the point. I read of a survey once that indicated that, when young people enter into a relationship/marriage and, say, both have saved 20K Quid, the money for a deposit on a house will almost invariably come from the man, whereas the woman’s 20K will be used for more perishable items like furniture and setting up the place etc.
    Even if her contributon is in kind, she can still be said to have released the man to work and earn, and pay back, more.

  5. David Vance –

    The Court of Appeal may have unwittingly done some good. It has at least provided some small disincentive for living in sin.

  6. Funny Title.

    I suppose it is only fair given that she contributed in other areas. However, the Courts might have a problem as the questions now becomes how long do unmarried couples have to live together before they qualify for this type of property distribution? Can a one night stand lead to losing half your home? What if he was living with two women, do they each get a share, and if so, an equal share? What if two men lived together, does one get a share? Etc., Etc. Etc.

    There are important considerations regarding marriage rights that are beyond religious considerations.

  7. If the title to the property is joint (in both their names), then surely she retains joint ownership, and presumably joint liability for the mortgage too.
    As there was no marriage, all that can be said is that she happened to live on the property for a while, but now she has moved out. Quite why that necessitates that the asset must be liquified and the proceeds distributed, escapes me.
    "the Court of Appeal decided she is entitled to half of the £150,000 property" – Yes, and the title deed presumably still says so too, so what’s the problem? She hasn’t lost that title at the land registry office. They haven’t scrubbed her name off the deed just because she no longer happens to reside there. She still jointly owns it; she has lost nothing.
    I jointly own assets with other people. I can’t see why I should require them to dispose of the assets merely because I move house to Newport Pagnell.

    …Or is it, perhaps, that the property is slowly sliding into a negative equity position, and she wants rid of her share of the potential liability for that?

  8. Is the reasoning behind the judges decision based purely on the fact that the financial contributions of both parties was roughly equal? If so then that seems reasonable enough. If it obliges unmarried couples who have made no contract to share their possessions, split them equally regardless of who contributed what, then the precedent is dangerous.

  9. I disagree with the first part of your comment, Ross.
    If, as I said, the property is jointly owned, and the mortgage liability is also jointly vested, then whose bank account the monthly direct debit came out of, is neither here nor there.
    "Darling, which of our bank accounts shall we do the mortgage payments from, yours or mine?"
    "Errrmmm….make it yours. I’ll make it up by getting the groceries in and other stuff".
    The property is jointly owned. Which bank account the repayments come from is utterly irrelevant and cannot be quantified as "I contributed more than (s)he did", as presumably both partners could shift funds to and from their single bank accounts if needed, if one of them was getting overdrawn all the time. Hence, they had the equivalent of a joint bank account in all but name, therefore both contributed equally.

    In short, if we are to recognise their co-habitation as a marriage in all but name, then we should also treat their finances and bank accounts as also joint in all but name.

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