Case report re: non married couples – Curran v Collins (2015)12/06/2015
This case involved Ms Curran and Mr Curry. They had a relationship for 32/33 years. There was a property and a kennelling business in Mr Curry’s sole name and upon the parties’ separation, Ms Curry claimed that she had a beneficial interest in both.
As the property and the business were held expressly in Mr Curry’s sole name, in order to be successful in her claim Ms Curran had to be able to prove to the Court two important factors;
That she reasonably believed that both her and Mr Curry shared a joint intention that the business and the property was to be shared with her, based on the way in which they conducted their relationship with one another.
That she acted to her detriment on the basis of relying on the common intention that she believed the parties shared, as set out in part one.
At the time of the trial, Ms Curran’s case was that the parties had an understanding and an agreement between them that she would have a half share in the property and the premises. She also claimed that she had contributed to both financially by paying her wages towards the household mortgage and bills etc… (Presumably arguing that she only did so as she believed the property was half hers and she therefore acted to her detriment in relying on that understanding).
In addition, Ms Curran relied on two other events to try to prove to the Court that Mr Curry did intend the property and the business to be shared by her.
Firstly, she claimed that when Mr Collins made his Will in 1992 and left all of his estate to her on death, which was a clear demonstration of him showing his intention to share with her. Secondly, she claimed that when she asked Mr Curry why the property and business was not in their joint names he told her that it related to the cost of life insurance and she accepted that.
Ms Curran claimed that all of these factors showed that in reality she was a joint owner of the business and the property.
The Court rejected her position.
Although she appealed to the Court of Appeal, her appeal was unsuccessful and the Court stood by the original decision that Ms Curran was not entitled to a share in the property or the business.
This case highlights the importance for non-married couples to seek expert advice throughout the course of their relationship where appropriate. The common misconception of a ‘common law’ marriage does not exist and too many people do not understand the law, or have an appreciation of their rights or entitlements on the breakdown of a relationship.