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Appeal for higher share in partner’s house rejected

The Court of Appeal has rejected a woman’s claim that she was entitled to a greater share of her late partner’s home.

When an unmarried couple lives together but the property they live in is owned by one partner, the other partner can sometimes establish a right to a share of its value once the relationship is over. This is referred to as their ‘beneficial interest’, and is usually established based on a partner’s contribution to the relationship.

In Graham-York v York & Ors, the woman at the centre of the case had cohabited with her partner from 1976 until his death in 2009 and in that time they had two children. However, the house was registered under her partner’s name and she had “no significant income”.

At a hearing in the Central London County Court, a judge ruled that she was entitled to 25 per cent beneficial interest in the house, saying it was “a fair reflection of [her] contributions”.

Miss Graham-York thought this was too low and brought her case to the Court of Appeal, claiming she had contributed “as much to the household as she reasonably could” over the course of the relationship.

However, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice, Lord Justice Tomlinson said it was “possible to be led astray by the length of the cohabitation”. Due to the couple living together for such an extended period of time, the “non-financial contribution is likely to be proportionately greater”, he said. Turning to finances, the judge cited the lower court’s “damning” assessment that her contribution over a 33 year cohabitation “does not amount to much”.

Lord Justice Tomlinson ruled that the original judge “fell into no legal or analytical error”. Furthermore, he said that allowing the appeal to go ahead would “simply encourage appeals, raising false expectations and leading to the further erosion of modest estates”. Therefore, he dismissed Miss Graham-York’s appeal.

To read the full judgment, click here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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