Unmarried couples have no automatic right to each other's property

An unmarried couple's 30-year relationship broke down. Their house and successful business, worth £750k, were in the man's name but his partner claimed a 'fair share' of each. When her ex-partner refused to pay her anything she took legal proceedings.

The court rejected her claim on grounds there was no evidence of an original, joint intention that she should have an interest in the family home or the business. Nor was there subsequent evidence that they intended her to acquire a share, such as:

  • behaviour indicating an intention that she should have a share;
  • a contribution to the property or business, whether financial or non-financial.

Married couples should ensure they agree, and record in writing, their joint intentions about the ownership of their assets at the outset. In the absence of evidence that each should have or acquire a share, there may be no right to claim a share on any future separation.