A woman whose relationship broke down has failed in her bid to get a share of her former home.
In Curran v Collins, the cohabiting couple had been in a relationship from 1977 until their breakup in 2010.
Over the course of their 33-year relationship, the couple bred Airedale terriers. After their split, Mr Collins agreed to pay £3,500 for half the value of the dogs, but said Ms Curran had no claim on any of the three properties that they had spent time in as a couple.
Mr Collins had bought the properties under his name and had “told her expressly that the property would be owned by him alone”.
A judge at the Central London County Court agreed with Mr Collins and denied the woman’s claim to a share, so she took her case to the Court of Appeal. Her lawyer argued that the initial judge “had no rational basis for discounting Ms Curran’s evidence in the circumstances”. She also accused the judge of forming a negative opinion of Ms Curran before her evidence had been fully heard.
Additionally, Ms Curran claimed that the original judge had focused too much on financial contributions.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lady Justice Arden said that “any appellant who challenges [a] judge’s finding on credibility has a particularly difficult task” and that the Court of Appeal “could only properly interfere if the judge were wrong”.
As for the finances, the judge ruled that the initial case “expressly went beyond mere financial contributions” in its scope and that Ms Curran “simply seeks to re-argue points on which the judge found against [her]”.
Lady Justice Arden said that the overall evidence supported the initial judge’s findings and therefore dismissed the appeal.
This judgment represents a striking imbalance in the law. As the judge pointed out, Ms Curran “bore the legal burden of proving that she was entitled to a share”. This would not have happened if the parties were married and going through a divorce. The law as it currently stands is fundamentally unfair to cohabiting couples as they are afforded no rights following the breakdown of their relationships. This case illustrates the problem perfectly, as couple were together for over 30 years yet Ms Curran has walked away with nothing.
To read the full judgment, click here.