Professor Judith Bray, University of Buckingham
Currently unmarried couples have no right in law to claim ownership of each other’s property on relationship breakdown. This should be well known but there are still misunderstandings amongst many couples.
Cohabitants often believe that rights arise from a long relationship which is incorrect. There are no statutory rights protecting cohabitants on the breakdown of a relationship. Instead of statutory rights, cohabitants must rely on the complex rules of property law which are beset with technicalities. Their status as cohabitants has no effect on outcome and although the courts may take the length of relationship and other issues into account when quantifying shares, the claim to a share is a property law based claim. Couples cannot predict how the property rules and principles will apply to their individual circumstances.
This article examines the current position regarding property rights for cohabitants and demonstrates why reform is needed.
The full version of this article appears in the December 2016 issue of Family Law.
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