The Queen’s Bench division of the High Court has transferred a property dispute between a couple who fell out after moving in together to an alternative court.
In Morris v Donaldson, the couple had both been married before. In 2009 they began a relationship and moved into a house owned by the woman in Putney, south London. Each party had children and they either lived with the couple or visited them at the property.
The couple planned to marry but the relationship broke down before the wedding. The woman then asked her former partner to move out of the house and he did so.
The man then launched proceedings in the Queen’s Bench division. He sought, under section 25.1 of the Civil Procedure Rules, an order that he be allowed to enter his former partner’s house to list his possessions and then to remove them.
In the High Court, Judge Seymour QC noted:
“The property contains items which [the couple] have accumulated over many years in the course of their previous marriages, and also items, as I understand it, which they have purchased together.”
“It is, I think, appropriate to notice that what is being sought in the Draft Order which has been put before me, first, is delivery up of identified items of property; second, what is then envisaged is that … the claimant, should be permitted to enter the property — which legally at any rate is that of the defendant… with a view to him identifying what he says are items of his property and what he says are items of joint property…And in the event of there being disputes which the parties are not able to resolve between themselves that the matter be brought back to this court with a view to a resolution by this court of whatever disputes there may be.”
The defendant offered to make items available via a delivery man within a limited time and the judge noted her offer.
But, he continued:
“It is, I think, immediately obvious that whatever else is appropriate, it is not that this court should resolve any issues between these parties. If and in so far as there is a question as to the ownership of an item, the appropriate division of this court, if it were appropriate indeed for this action to remain in the High Court, would probably be Chancery Division or possibly Family Division, but assuredly not this division.”
Judge Seymour concluded:
“In those circumstances, it seems to me that the appropriate way forward is for me to accept the undertakings offered by [the defendant], but to make no other order, save that this action be transferred either to the Wandsworth County Court or to the Family Division.”