A woman who cohabited with her partner for more than 18 years has won a legal battle with his estranged wife for a share in his home.

Joy Williams faced legal action from her partner’s estranged wife following the passing of Norman Martin as he never legally divorced his wife. As such, his share of the property he owned with Ms Williams automatically passed to his wife, Mrs Martin. However, a judge at the Central London County Court has now ruled that this share should go to Ms Williams.

Despite the ruling from a judge, Mrs Martin has stated that she plans to challenge the decision.

Mr Martin and Ms Williams bought their three-bedroom house in 2009 as tenants in common, as a result, when he passed three years later, his share of the property was not transferred.

Although Mrs Martin contested the claim that she was estranged from her husband, he had moved out of the home they shared together in 1994.

The judge said Mrs Martin’s case was based on the fact that “she and the deceased remained in a committed relationship as husband and wife and that the deceased was in effect maintaining two separate households”.

However, the judge rejected this argument stating that it was “quite plain” that Ms Williams and Mr Martin had in “all material respects” lived as husband and wife in a way “in which they expected to spend the rest of their lives”.

Judge Nigel Gerald ruled that Ms Williams had brought the claim forward for “reasonable financial provision” and the outcome was a “fair and reasonable result.”

Following the ruling, Ms Williams said: “All I wanted was for the court to recognise that I needed to have his share of the house that was our home to provide me with some security for my future and this judgment has done just that.

“What has been traumatic for me is that this level of serious relationship is not currently recognised by the law, and I had to bring this claim in court to achieve some security and to obtain this result.”

Potential Issues when Cohabitating

The issue in the case involving the loved ones of Norman Martin highlights the issues that can arise when cohabiting and if you do not finalise a divorce. While cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK, couples and families living under such agreements are not as well protected as married couples in the eyes of the law.

Assets and other items purchased before cohabitation or during cohabitation can become part of the settlement, with many people losing their assets due to having no agreement in place. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that if you are cohabiting or considering cohabiting with a loved one, then you get a cohabitation agreement. Such a document can ring-fence some assets, provide financial safety and ensure that if you separate, there is a fair settlement in place. It can also prevent disputes and resolve matters such as child custody and property ownership following the breakdown of a relationship.

Contact Us Today

While the cohabitation laws in Scotland have improved, it is still highly advisable that when establishing a cohabitation agreement, you seek the advice of a skilled solicitor. To get in touch with our team of expert family solicitors regarding cohabitation or any legal issues on the matter, contact our team of experts today using our online contact form.