Judge brands property law unfair on cohabiting couples
A senior judge has branded property laws “harsh” and “unfair” on cohabiting couples.
Pamela Curran told the Court of Appeal that she was “absolutely stripped of everything” when a 30 year relationship ended and a court ruled that she had no right to a share in the couple’s home or her former partner’s business as they were unmarried.
Ms Curran, 55, had been involved with Brian Collins, 52, since the 1970s, when both were teenagers. Tthe couple worked together in a kennels and cattery business near Ashford in Kent. But the relationship ended in 2010.
A tearful Ms Curran told the court that she had trusted her former partner to provide for her after working hard to build up the business.
“The person you see sitting here today is not the person I was, because I have been destroyed.”
The couple’s home and kennels/ cattery business were bought for a combined total of £750,000 in 2007 in Mr Collins’ sole name.
“Sadly, the appellant found herself in the classic position of a woman jilted in her early 50s, having very much made her life with the respondent for over 30 years. The law of property can be harsh on people, usually women, in that situation. Bluntly, the law remains unfair to people in the appellant’s position, but the judge was constrained to apply the law as it is.”
He noted that the government had declined to implement a 2007 report from the Law Commission recommending that property laws be reformed to give cohabiting couples the same rights to a share in property as married ones.
Lord Justice Toulson added: “Judges ought not to be affected by human sympathies, they must apply the law as they see it. It was extremely difficult not to be affected by a sense that the appellant has, in truth, been treated unfairly. [Ms Curran] describes herself as a nobody, but with a profound sense that what’s happened was not just.”
Photo by brittgow via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
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