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Court rejects woman’s claim to a share of her former partner’s home

A court has rejected a woman’s claim that she was entitled to a share of her former partner’s home.

The woman already had two children when the couple began their relationship. Her partner then bought a house with his own money for her to live in with her children. He drew up a cohabitation agreement stating that the property would remain his if the relationship ended. However, she refused to sign it.

The partner then sold the house and bought a farm so the woman moved there with the children. When the relationship broke down she claimed that she was entitled to a 50% share in the property.

To support her claim she gave evidence in court that she had given up her job to work on the farm and had acted as project manager while major alterations and improvements were carried out.

The court ruled against her. The judge held that there was no evidence that she had a beneficial interest in the property - that is, a legal entitlement to a share in it or a share of the proceeds from selling it. Her partner had made it clear that he did not intend for her to have a beneficial interest in the first house when he bought it and she had not been able to prove that his intentions had changed when he bought the farm.

She had been heavily involved in the redevelopment of the farm but she had not been the project manager.

In giving his judgment, the judge said that whether or not his decision was fair was not a matter for the court. He had to act in accordance with the law and fairness was not a matter for the court to judge: that would have to be a matter for law reform.

The case illustrates the need for people to draw up official legal documents to protect their interests in such important areas. The partner’s position was helped by the fact that he had drawn up a cohabitation agreement with the help of his solicitors. The woman had no legal documents to back up her claim.

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