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A reminder that the “common law marriage” is a myth and nothing more


In late September District Judge Alan Johns QC ruled that former girlfriend, Gillian Turner, had no claim against her former boyfriend, Michael Durant, for 50% of his property business. Ms Turner collapsed in Court after the ruling. The judgment serves as a reminder to cohabiting couples that they do not share the same rights as married couples.

Ms Turner and Mr Durant had been cohabiting since the late 1980s and their relationship broke down in 2014. They have an adult son and lived together in a family home in Hertfordshire worth £1.1 million. During their relationship Mr Durant built up a very successful property business, Lodge House Ltd. Ms Turner believed the business to be worth millions.  

It was Ms Turner’s case that Mr Durant had reneged on promises to marry her and to share his multi-million pound property empire with her. Ms Turner said that Mr Durant had promised to give her a half share in his property business if she invested her £200,000 life savings into their new home. Mr Durant was paying the £250,000 mortgage on the property but had used his own savings to grow his business.  

Mr Durant denied that any such conversations took place and maintained that he had never said the parties would marry. 

Ms Turner provided no documentary evidence to back up her assertions and District Judge Alan Johns QC found it very hard to believe that a woman who trusted her former partner so little would have been content to simply take his word that she would be entitled to half of his business.

The Judge found that no promise had been made by Mr Durant to marry Ms Turner and that there had been no “imbalance” to her, as Mr Durant had paid the substantial mortgage.  Further, Ms Turner was ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings. 

It is important for cohabiting couples to be aware of the fact that on the breakdown of a relationship, they do not have the same protection as married couples.

If you would like to discuss what arrangements can be put in place to help protect the rights of cohabitees or indeed what steps should be taken on the breakdown of a cohabitating relationship, then please contact our Family team, who would be more than happy to assist.  

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