A while ago my article entitled ALL CHANGE OR STAY AS YOU ARE? considered a case passing through the court process called Kernott and Jones.
That case concerned two parties who had separated but who had previously lived together with their children as cohabitees and who owned a home together jointly.
At the time they separated they both acknowledged that they had an equal entitlement to the value of the home. Ms Jones remained in the home with the children and Mr Kernott left and eventually purchased another house for himself. Mr Kernott made no particular financial contribution to the jointly owned home after he left. Ms Jones paid the mortgage, the usual outgoings, all insurances and maintained the property at her own expense.
The question for the court was should their entitlement after several years living apart remain equal or should Ms Jones “investment” in the home mean that she should now be entitled to a greater share of the value of the home. The case also involved an endowment policy.
When I wrote the last article the Court of Appeal had ruled on Mr Kernott’s appeal that there was no evidence of a common intention between Mr Kernott and Ms Jones to vary the shares each had held in the property at the time of separation. The court therefore ruled that their shares should remain at 50/50 ie an equal share unvaried from the date of separation. That all seemed fair and straightforward.
However, unaccepting of that outcome, Ms Jones appealed to the Supreme Court and last week the Supreme Court over ruled the Court of Appeal by stating that the original judgement (given some time ago by the lower County Court) was right from the outset and allowed Ms Jones appeal and awarded her 90% interest in the home, leaving Mr Kernott with only 10%. Is this fair? Each case is different with unique circumstances and there seems there is now no one clear principle for cohabitees.
What should we draw from such costly and time consuming goings on in the court system?
The law for cohabitants upon the breakdown of their relationship has been in disarray for as long as we family lawyers can remember. The case of Kernott and Jones does nothing to make the position any clearer.
Angela Moores is available to provide advice not only to cohabitees in dispute but on all aspects of Family Law including divorce, financial settlements and child related issues. Initial interviews can be arranged free of charge when we can provide the initial advice and overview or your situation.