Thursday, 24 January 2013

Common Law Wife Gets Nothing After 30 Year Relationship

The plight of Pamela Curran has been widely reported in the press today. She and her former partner, Brian Collins, were childhood sweethearts and lived together for more than thirty years. The never married.  During their relationship a house and a business were bought in Mr Collins' sole name. When the relationship ended in 2010, Ms Curran tried to make a claim against what had been her home and her livelihood, but her claim was refused. She was left with nothing.

Ms Curran has now been granted leave to appeal this decision. Lord Justice Toulson said that Ms Curran was a victim of the unfair and old fashioned property laws that are biased against women of her age and position. Her situation also highlights the significant difference between those who are married and those who are not in terms of the financial claims they can make if their relationship ends. If she had been married she would probably have received  half the assets, even if they were in her husband's sole name, by way of a financial settlement when they divorced.

The Law Commission Report in 2007 recommended that property law be reformed as it is unfair to those in Ms Curran's position. However, in 2011 the Government said that it had no plans to change the law. Given that more people are choosing to cohabit and less people are choosing to marry there is a strong argument that the law should be brought up to date to reflect our changing society and to protect cohabitees.

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