Jack and Jill were married in a beautiful ceremony, paid for by Jill’s parents. Their generosity extended beyond the ceremony itself to a down-payment towards the newlyweds’ first home, which was purchased in their joint names. Unfortunately, the nuptials did not lead to wedded bliss, and the couple has decided to separate. They must now determine what to do with their home. Jill believes that Jack is entitled to nothing because her parents provided the down payment, and there is not much equity in the property aside from that contribution. Jack believes that he is entitled to something because he owns the home jointly with Jill, the parties are married, and he made half of the mortgage payments. He also spent many hours on home improvement projects and paid for the materials required for those projects. Who is right?
The answer is that both parties have a legitimate basis for their respective positions. Because of the contribution from her parents, Jill may be entitled to claim an exemption upon the distribution of the equity in their home, which falls under the provisions of the Matrimonial Property Act. However, Jack is also correct in that because the home was purchased in joint names, Jill may have compromised some of her exemption. He may be entitled to make a claim for his contributions towards the property as well due to his joint ownership, not only under the Matrimonial Property Act, but also the Law of Property Act.
Property issues can be complicated, even when you you’re married. It’s always best to have legal advice on your entitlements following the breakdown of any relationship. Should you require assistance with such an issue, please contact myself or one of my experienced colleagues for a consultation.