From The Times
By Frances Gibb
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Unmarried couples who split have won equal rights to a share in their home - but only if they put it in joint names, the House of Lords ruled this morning.
In a landmark judgment, affecting up to two million cohabiting couples, a majority of the law lords, Britain’s highest court, ruled that where a couple own a house in joint names there should be a presumption that they own it equally.
Their ground-breaking decision for the first time gives some legal credence to the widely-held myth that a “common-law” marriage does carry property rights.
It means that when a relationship splits, the former cohabitants are a step closer to “divorce-style” rights with each gaining half the value of the home when sold.
But as with divorcing couples, courts will take account of factors such as how much each party put into the relationship and work out their share accordingly.
And the law lords gave a stark warning that unmarried couples could face an expensive battle when they split up - with legal costs swallowing up any assets available, as in today’s case.
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If you listen closely, you can hear the rats scurrying from planet Earth just as they did days before the erupting of Pompei. Society as we once knew it is over. If couples can maintain the same property rights whether or not they’re married, then what’s the point of getting hitched in the first place? But the problem may not be that severe. Europeans have been trending away from marriage for some time and now it’s moving west to Britain. We can probably expect more kids with hyphenated names in the near future (“Pleased to meet you, Pax Pitt-Jolie”). Many American states have ‘common law’ marriages that kick in after a certain 7 to 10 years of cohabitation, so in some respects we are light years ahead of the ‘godless’ Europeans in terms of protecting couples who choose to ‘live in sin.’