A Cautionary Tale for Co-habiting Couples - Supreme Court case of Kernott v Jones

Co-habitation disputes regarding home ownership and the eagerly awaited Supreme Court decision of the case of Kernott v Jones is due imminently.

The facts of the case:  An unmarried couple bought a house together in 1985 in joint names and they lived together in the house, which had been bought for £30,000. The woman paid the deposit and the balance was made up by an interest only mortgage. The man largely funded an extension and the mortgage payments and household bills were shared. The couple lived there together and had two children.  In 1993 the relationship broke down. The man moved out and ceased to contribute to the mortgage and running expenses of the property, and made no financial contribution towards couple’s children. He bought another property and moved there. The couple cashed in a joint life insurance policy and split the proceeds in part to assist him to finance his new home.

County Court :  In 2008, it became necessary to determine the respective shares of the ownership of the property upon application by the woman, by which time  the value of the property had risen to £245,000. The County Court ruled that the woman had no financial interest in the property that the man had bought himself and in respect of the joint property, the share of the woman who had remained in the house should be 90 % and the man 10% on the basis this outcome was ‘fair and just’.

Then the High Court : The man appealed. On appeal, the High Court upheld this decision and stated that the result arrived at by the trial judge was within the range of what was fair.

And then the Court of Appeal : After a further appeal, the Court of Appeal ordered (by a majority) that the split should be 50:50. The Court concluded that the parties had agreed on separation that their interests were equal and there was nothing to displace those interests and so the courts below were wrong to conclude differently.

And Now : The woman appealed the decision of the Court of Appeal. The case has now been heard by the Supreme Court and judgment is imminent and may be expected to set a precedent for how similar cases will be decided in the future.