Bloomberg News

U.K. Supreme Court Rules on Split of Unmarried Couple’s Home

November 09, 2011

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Britain’s highest court ruled judges don’t need to evenly divide the value of a home owned by an unmarried couple when they split up without determining who owns what share of the property.

The U.K. Supreme Court awarded today 90 percent of a disputed home’s value to former hairdresser Patricia Jones, who had paid the mortgage alone for about 13 years, while her former partner Leonard Kernott, an ice cream salesman, was given 10 percent. Kernott had sought half of the value of the home, which was purchased for 30,000 pounds ($47,853) in 1985 and valued at 245,000 pounds in April 2008, when the case went to trial. Kernott had moved out of the home in 1993.

The Supreme Court judgment overturned a Court of Appeal decision in favor of an equal split and affirmed a lower court’s original ruling.

“Although this may have produced a ‘fair’ outcome in this case, the introduction of the concept of fairness within cohabitation disputes is likely to result in significant factual and evidential arguments in future cases,” said Claire Blakemore, a lawyer at Withers LLP in London.

Kernott argued that shortly after the house was purchased, he helped with construction that expanded the size of the house and increased its value by about half, according to the ruling. However, the home appreciated much faster during the time that Jones was paying on her own, it said.

The judgment “will surely lead to more litigation as co- owners attempt to unscramble what is really a fairly incomprehensible area of the law,” said Victoria Francis, a lawyer at Speechly Bircham in London.

The judgment is a sign that courts will be forced to set precedents on matters of cohabitation until lawmakers enact legislation, said Sandra Davis, who leads the family law practice at Mishcon de Reya in London.

“No matter what the courts try to do to help separating couples, their decisions are no substitute for carefully drafted legislation,” Davis said.

--Editor: Christopher Scinta, Heather Smith

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at

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