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Cohabitation Road Map


The High Court has produced another judgment intended to make it easier for us to understand who may be entitled to what when cohabitees need to resolve their property disputes.

It is already well known to family lawyers that the existing decision of Jones v Kernott (2011) now “provides the starting point for the road map through this area of law”.

In the case of S V J and others (2016) the High Court judge has quoted with approval the Court's conclusions in Jones v Kernott. Roberts J followed the five guiding principles set out there:-

(1) The starting point is that equity follows the law.

(2) That presumption can be displaced by showing that the parties either had a different common intention when they purchased the home or later formed a common intention that their respective shares should change. Such common intention should be accompanied by detrimental reliance.

(3) Common intention is to be deduced objectively from the parties' conduct.

(4) Where it is clear that the parties did not intend joint tenancy but it is not possible to ascertain their intention as to the shares in which they held beneficial ownership, 'the answer is that each is entitled to that share which the court considers fair having regard to the whole course of dealing between them in relation to the property'.

(5) Each case will turn on its own facts. Financial contributions are relevant, but there are many other factors which may enable the court to decide what shares were intended.

It is not always an easy thing to do during a relationship but keeping all of the paperwork together in a good safe place in order to show who has paid for what is often remarkably helpful. Often the true intention of the parties can be drawn from spending patterns and is the only “golden thread” linking all of the issues together in a coherent way.

For assistance with any family matter, including co-habitation, please contact our Family team on 01905 723561 or e-mail

Added: 18 Apr 2016 12:36

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