Unmarried Couples – Are You as Secure as You Think?

In a case which stands as a warning to unmarried couples that their assumptions of security are often wrong, a dog breeder who said that she was left with nothing but an Airedale terrier after she split from her partner of more than 30 years has failed to win a stake in his £750,000 kennels business.

The woman, in her 50s, argued that she had ‘thrown in her lot’ with her partner, whom she had met as a teenager. She had worked hard in the business for only £50 a week and it had always been her understanding that she was a partner in the venture and part-owner of the home where the couple lived and worked.

She lodged proceedings after the relationship broke down and her partner excluded her from the property. However, a judge rejected her claim, noting that the property, as well as a previous home they had shared, had been paid for entirely by her partner and that he had made it expressly clear to her that she would have no interest in it and that her name would not be on the title deeds.

Also rejecting her claim that she was a partner in the business, the judge noted that she was paid a small allowance and was treated as a minor employee. She was also identified as an employee on her tax returns and had not acted to her detriment in reliance on any assurance her ex-partner gave her. In dismissing her challenge to the judge’s decision, the Court of Appeal described it as unimpeachable.