When a relationship comes to an end, there is often the issue of what will happen to any land acquired during that relationship. From a legal viewpoint, the ideal situation is that the parties will have provided precisely for this situation but, all too often, that is not the case and sometimes the problem has to be thrashed out in the courts. The case of Kernott v Jones  EWCA Civ 578 (Wall, Jacob and Rimer LJJ) is an example in point. The case concerned a house acquired by Patricia Ann Jones and Leonard Trevor Kernott. They bought it in May 1985 and it was conveyed to them as joint tenants. The parties separated in late 1993. In March 2008, Mr Kernott purported to sever the joint tenancy - (which would turn them into tenants-in-common). In the period from 1993 to 2008, Patricia Jones had assumed responsibility for all outgoings as well as maintenance of the children of the relationship. The basic question was - in what shares did the parties own the property? The Court of Appeal (by a majority) held that the parties owned the property as tenants-in-common on equal shares and not, as decided by the High Court and County Court, in shares of 90% to Patricia Jones / 10% Leonard Kernott..
Wall LJ described the case as a cautionary tale and said:
The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court which will deliver judgment on 9th November. It is to be hoped that the court will issue a clear statement of the law - preferably in a single judgment. No doubt, that is to hope for too much. As a reading of Kernott v Jones will show (as well as the other cases referred to in that judgment), the law is far from clear and does not necessarily achieve what many people would view as fairness. Unfortunately, at least for the duration of this Parliament, the government decided not to proceed with reforms put forward by the Law Commission in July 2007 (Law Com No 307 - Cohabitation: The financial consequences of relationship breakdown)- see Solicitors Journal 14th September 2011.
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Nearly Legal blog
Family Law Week
Stack v Dowden  UKHL 17 - Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hope, Lord Walker, Baroness Hale, Lord Neuberger.
The panel in the Supreme Court for Jones v Kernott (as the case will be known) is Lord Walker, Lady Hale, Lords Collins, Kerr and Wilson.
For a basic description of the permissible forms of co-ownership of land see Law and Laywers - Land Law No.2
A recent case on severance of joint tenancy is Quigley v Masterson  EWHC 2529 (Ch) - discussed in this Law Society Gazette article.