Some further guidance on the thorny matter of co-habitation claims has come from the Court of Session in the case of Alexander Melvin v Fiona Christie  CSIH 43. The parties had cohabited for 15 years and had 2 children. The house they lived in was in the defender’s name only. The defender could not have afforded the mortgage without the pursuer’s contribution and broadly speaking their contributions had been equal. At separation the house had increased in value. The Sheriff decided against the Pursuer but, on appeal to the Sheriff Principal, he was awarded half the equity in the house.
The defender appealed to the Court of Session claiming there was no causal link between the pursuer’s contributions and the advantage gained by the defender. Their Lordships disagreed. They held that whilst there had to be a link it did not have to be direct and they confirmed the Sheriff Principal’s award.
Accordingly we see a shift from the decision in Whigham v Owen 2013 CSOH 29 where Lord Drummond Young had stated that no causal link was required. This is a sensible move as it means, for example, that a co-habitee who inherits money should be protected from a claim as there can be no causal link between that increase in wealth and the other co-habitee’s contributions. On the other hand, it protects the co-habitee who has supported the other co-habitee either financially, or non financially, which has allowed wealth to accrue to that other co-habitee.
For further information, please contact Morven Douglas.