To share, or not to share – Midwife wins court battle with her tech boss ex-partner over their £1million home

Midwife wins court battle with her tech boss ex-partner over their £1million home after telling judge he promised her an equal share over a drink in the pub thirteen years ago.

 The above headline was recently in the press.  The press clippings report that Ms Chipperfield, 52, and CEO Mr Horn, 58, lived together for more than 15 years and had two children but never married.  Ms Chipperfield only paid £39,000 towards their £1million home whilst Mr Horn paid £740,000.  When the parties split in 2016 Mr Horn took legal action against Ms Chipperfield for claiming an equal share of the house, despite it being in both of their names.   Ms Chipperfield won her legal battle after telling a High Court Judge her ex-partner promised it to her in a pub 13 years ago.

The case was before Mr Justice Freedman in London’s High Court.  Mr Justice Freedman made plain that the husband had “failed to acknowledge the sacrifices which the Ms Chipperfield made to the family in terms of her career and significant contributions to which she made to the family finances” in his bid for a larger share of their former home.

Interestingly Mr Horne and Ms Chipperfield were not married.  Although this case has similarities with how a court would have dealt with this matter if the parties had been married.

Cohabitation

Your legal rights as a partner may depend on whether you are married or living together. Living together with someone is sometimes also called cohabitation.

Whilst society has changed and it has become more common for parties to live together outside of marriage or in a civil partnership, generally speaking, you will have fewer rights if you are living together than if you are married or in a civil partnership.

The “common law marriage” simply does not exist in legal terms.  Your position could be severely and irreparably prejudiced in the event where a relationship breaks down, or on death, without the terms being recorded.

It is for this reason that many couples enter in a cohabitation agreement which will regulate the terms upon which a cohabiting couple live together and addresses what happens should the relationship end.  For example, an interest in property and financial support (such as who pays what and for how long) could be recorded.

It should be noted that a cohabiting couple do not need to be at the end of their relationship for advice to be obtained and proper thought given.   A collaborative approach might be an ideal forum to agree how you will live together and how assets should be dealt with in the event of separation.

Marriage

There is no standard formula when calculating appropriate provision in financial proceedings connected to divorce.

Instead, Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 lists the matters that the court must consider when making orders for financial provision in connection with divorce.  When making, or deciding not to make, any order the court must consider “all the circumstances of the case” with the first consideration to be given to the welfare of any minor children of the family.  Though this does not make such welfare paramount to any other consideration.  A broad-brush starting point in divorce is usually that a couple’s assets are split equally.   The court will then consider other factors under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which may lead to a deviation from a 50 – 50 split if is fair and reasonable to do so.  

There are many alternative ways other than the court forum to resolve financial disputes.  These include discussions between the parties, solicitor negotiations, mediation, collaborative law and arbitration.  However this area can become complex and it is suggested that advice is sought at an early stage to put you and your partner in the best position possible.

Rayden Solicitors are a specialist family law firm.  If you require any advice, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01727 734260.

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