The case gained national attention including coverage in the Times, Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard, and here is how the Daily Mail summarised the recent case as follows:
Midwife wins court battle with her tech boss ex-partner over their £1million home after telling judge he promised her an equal share over a drink in the PUB 13 years ago.
Claire Chipperfield, 52, only paid £39,000 towards her £1million home. Her wealthy tech boss ex-boyfriend Andrew Horn, 58, paid £740,000.
But when they split in 2016 he tried to sue her for claiming an equal share. She has won her legal battle after claims he told her they were equal in the pub.
Background to the case
My client is a Midwife and her long standing partner held a number of senior management roles. They had two boys and had lived together for 17 years but were never married and therefore had none of the rights that a marriage confers.
In 2006 they purchased their family home in joint names as joint tenants with the majority, but not all, of the funds coming from Mr Horn.
On separation my client’s former partner brought a legal case arguing that my client was not entitled to any money from the property as it should never have been registered as joint tenants . He further argued that as he put most of the money into financing the property he should not have to give my client her 50% share. Mr Horn also alleged during the case that my client fraudulently gave instructions to the solicitors on purchase, and later that the solicitors had made a mistake when registering the property with the land registry. He claimed that they had a common intention to hold the property as tenants in common.
The heart of the dispute was whether the parties intended to purchase the house as ‘joint tenants’ meaning they had equal ownership or as ‘tenants in common’ with a unequal share. Moore Blatch argued that it was correctly and intentionally registered as joint tenants at the time of purchase.
Why the case was successful
My client’s partner effectively tried to re-write history post separation. He was helped to a certain extent by the original conveyancing file having been destroyed. The Land Registry could only tell us that they received instructions to register as joint tenants but both parties said that they did not give those instructions. So who did? The Judge said that the claimant Mr Horn did.
Our client was a compelling witness during the case and the judge preferred her evidence that they had throughout their relationship always lived as a committed couple and nuclear family. They were engaged.
My client’s partner had always dealt with correspondence and the finances. However, my client had done all that she could to keep the family afloat during the many periods of her partner’s unemployment and this had included contributing to the household finances by cashing in savings, taking out and repaying loans and providing some of the deposit monies for the home.
One of the key evidential points was that on the day they purchased the property they went for dinner where my client’s partner said ‘well that’s it Chip, we are now 50/50 and on the debt as well”. However, in the case this was denied by my client’s partner who tried to say that he didn’t mean this literally.
The judge said that my client’s partner had a ‘somewhat callous and off-hand attitude to my client’s contributions’ and said that he had a ‘markedly and surprisingly cold manner towards her career sacrifices’. We have subsequently and successfully defended two appeal attempts and won our client her legal costs on top.
So, what does this mean for future cases?
Most importantly this case highlights the different treatment of married and unmarried couples.
The law in this area is particularly fact sensitive and therefore recalling the specifics that took place at the time is imperative.
But, this case clearly demonstrates that sacrifices made by one party can inform the judge as to the likely intentions of the parties.
The judge said that my client’s partner had a ‘somewhat callous and off-hand attitude to my client’s contributions’ and said that he had a ‘markedly and surprisingly cold manner towards her career sacrifices’.
Finally, our legal arguments focused on the fact that a partner cannot simply focus on of the figures and ignore the reality by re-writing history. Ultimately this was our client’s partners downfall as the facts simply did not support an unequal ownership.