Friday, April 27, 2007

Time for change

The number of people finding this blog by using the search string "Stack v Dowden" since I posted about the case a couple of days ago suggests to me a huge desire amongst family lawyers for some guidance upon resolving cohabitees' property disputes.

When so many people choose to cohabit rather than marry, is it satisfactory that we should have to rely upon a succession of (sometimes contradictory) court decisions to enable us to advise our clients? Surely the time has come for Parliament to properly codify the property rights of cohabitants upon relationship breakdown, in a similar way to the rights of spouses upon marriage breakdown?

As I have mentioned before, Resolution suggests that if a couple have been together for two years or more then they should take some responsibility for each other’s welfare when their relationship ends. Until that time, strict property rules could apply, although it would be helpful if, as Baroness Hale suggested in Stack v Dowden, the Land Registry made it mandatory for the Transfer document to contain a declaration setting out how the transferees are to hold the property. Of course, any major change in cohabitees' property rights should be accompanied by a publicity campaign to make the public aware of the new law.

There has been much discussion about changing the law. Let's hope that, when it's published in August, the Law Commission's final report will create the impetus for change to actually happen.

2 comments:

  1. What about limbo ladies - like me! I am still trying to get some kind of fair and realistic settlement from my partner of 20 years. No marriage unfortunately, but two beautiful girls now at university. He now wants to put the house in auction! Worth nearly 400K, but being a solicitor, he very neatly tied it up with the bank against his practice borrowings, which fluctuates between 350 and 500k.
    AND, he wants me to pay half of any costs incurred!!
    I am 58 years old, on a very low income from a small business, now totally unsupported financially and with no 'pension pot'.
    I need someone to fight my corner, or at least to give me some advice on how to deal with an arrogant, domineering, manipulative, intimidating 'legal eagle' who uses the law to hide behind. 'WE WERE NEVER MARRIED!' IS NOT AN ADEQUATE EXCUSE TO WRITE OFF 20 ODD YEARS OF 'COMMON LAW' MARRIAGE!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yours sounds like the classic case why the law should be changed to give cohabitees property rights. If you haven't done so already, take some legal advice - you may even be eligible for legal aid.

    ReplyDelete

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