09.11.11 -- Catherine Thomas, Director at leading law firm Vardags, which last year won the Radmacher case on prenups, says:
"The Supreme Court today ruled that where cohabiting couples own their home in equal shares, the court can declare that a change in circumstances (often as a result of the breakdown of that relationship) has caused the ownership to change, even when the parties did not expressly agree to such a change. In this case that change was significant; from 50/50 to 90/10 in favour of the person who remained in the house.
"Many cohabiting couples who have decided not to marry will be surprised to learn that the court can impute an intention to them, which they may never have actually had, by looking into their behaviour over the entire relationship. In deciding to attribute to the parties the share of the property the court believes is �fair�, rather than what was actually agreed, it is moving towards the approach more traditionally seen in divorce.
"With more than 50% of children now being born outside of marriage in the UK, this case emphasises the importance of cohabiting couples obtaining proper legal advice both before purchasing a property together and in the event that the relationship breaks down. Failure to do so risks expensive litigation as the court considers property ownership in the context of the whole of the relationship."
Five Supreme Court justices allowed an appeal by hairdresser Patricia Jones against an earlier ruling that ice-cream salesman Leonard Kernott was entitled to 50% of the value of the property in Thundersley, Essex - valued at �245,000 in 2008.
They said Ms Jones, of Thundersley, was entitled to 90% and Mr Kernott, of Benfleet, Essex, should get 10%.
The ruling, which followed a hearing in London, was the conclusion of a three-year legal battle, which had seen lawyers argue in a county court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court."