Temporary break in relationship can damage cohabitation claim
In a recent case brought under the Civil Partnership and the Civil Rights of Co-habitants Act which was heard very recently by the High Court a Women failed in her bid to receive financial support from her Ex- Fiancé after the judge found that they had split up for two significant periods during the time of their relationship.
Under the Cohabitants Act, if the party can demonstrate to the court that he/she has been left in an economically vulnerable position as a result of the ending of relationship where the couple were living in a non-marital relationship for more than 5 years (2 years if they had children together) they can an seek order from the court in relation to maintenance relating to property, pensions, and inheritance. In order to qualify as a “Qualified Cohabitant” the applicant must be able to show that the couple lived together in an intimate and committed relationship for the requisite period.
The case came before Judge Donald Binchy. The applicant claimed that herself and her ex Fiancé had been together between 2007 and 2016. She claimed that even though there were certain breaks in the relationship the relationship had not ended and she offered evidence in support of this that she continued to wear her engagement ring during the breaks.
Her former fiancé claimed on the other hand that there were significant periods when the couple split up and that when they did split up this was done without an intention to become reconciled. In his ruling Mr Justice Binchy, having considered all the evidence concluded that there were two periods, one in the region of 6 months and another of 4 months where the relationship had ended. He relied on evidence provided by the fiancé (respondent) and accepted evidence which related to an account of a conversation between the applicant and her former fiancé’s sister. There were also other witnesses to support the man’s version of events.
Mr Justice Binchy referred to a previous decision of the court of appeal in which it was held that it was not necessary to prove that the couple had spent every day under the same roof to qualify for redress but he concluded that she had to prove that their relationship had been intact even during the time that they had broken up. He said that she had not been in a position to offer any witnesses to support her version of events and he concluded that she had failed to meet the tests set out in the legislation i.e. that there had to be a continuous period of intimate and committed relationship for five years and accordingly the claim fell.
In summary, if there are any significant breaks in a non-marital relationship this may be fatal to claim for redress under the scheme.
For further information on any family law matter please do not hesitate to contact Brendan Dillon on 01-2960666