Walker v Hall: CA 1984

The court considered the way of distributing property purchased by an unmarried couple: ‘When such a relationship comes to an end, just as with many divorced couples, there are likely to be disputes about the distribution of shared property. How are such disputes to be decided? They cannot be decided in the same way as similar disputes are decided when there has been a divorce. The courts have no jurisdiction to do so. They have to be decided in accordance with the law relating to property . . There is no special law relating to property shared by cohabitees any more than there is any special law relating to property used in common by partners or members of a club. The principles of law to be applied are clear, though sometimes their application to particular facts are difficult. In circumstances such as arose in this case the appropriate law is that of resulting trusts. If there is a resulting trust (and there was one in this case) the beneficiaries acquire by operation of law interests in the trust property. An interest in property which is the consequence of a legal process must be identifiable. It must be more than expectations which at some later date require to be valued by a court . .’
Dillon LJ: ‘. . . the law of trusts has concentrated on how the purchase money has been provided and it has consistently been held that where the purchase money for the property acquired by two or more persons in their joint names has been provided by those persons in unequal amounts, they will be beneficially entitled as between themselves in the proportions in which they provided the purchase money. This is the basic doctrine of the resulting trust and it is conveniently and cogently expounded by Lord Upjohn in Pettitt v Petitt [1970] AC 777 at p 814’ and ‘. . . it is not open to this court, in my judgment, in the absence of specific evidence of the parties’ intention, to hold that 33 Foxberry Road belongs beneficially to Mr Hall and Mrs Walker in equal shares, notwithstanding their unequal contributions to the purchase price, simply because it was bought to be their family home and they intended that their relationship should last for life. Equally it is not open to this court to ‘top up’ Mrs Walker’s share, beyond what it would be on the mere basis of her financial contribution, on some broad notion of what would be fair simply because the house was bought as the family home; the court could no doubt do this in an appropriate case in proceedings under s.24 of the 1973 Act but the discretion under that section is not available in the present case.’


Lord Justice Lawton, Lord Justice Dillon, Lord Justice Kerr


[1984] FLR 126


Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act 1970, Matrimonial Causes Act 1973


England and Wales


CitedPettitt v Pettitt HL 23-Apr-1969
A husband and wife disputed ownership of the matrimonial home in the context of the presumption of advancement.
Lord Reid said: ‘These considerations have largely lost their force under present conditions, and, unless the law has lost its . .
CitedGissing v Gissing HL 7-Jul-1970
Evidence Needed to Share Benefical Inerests
The family home had been purchased during the marriage in the name of the husband only. The wife asserted that she had a beneficial interest in it.
Held: The principles apply to any case where a beneficial interest in land is claimed by a . .

Cited by:

CitedOxley v Hiscock CA 6-May-2004
The parties were not married, but had brought together their resources to purchase a home in the name of one of them. Nothing had been said about the respective shares on which the property was to be held.
Held: The shares were to be assessed . .
CitedTurton v Turton CA 1988
When ascertaining the beneficial interests in a family home purchased by an unmarried couple, those interests had to be ascertained from consideration of the intentions of the parties at the time of the purchase; they were not to be left for . .
CitedStack v Dowden CA 13-Jul-2005
The parties purchased a property together. The transfer contained a survivorship restriction but no declaration of the beneficial interests. The judge had held the property to be held as tenants in commn on equal shares.
Held: In a case where . .
CitedJones v Kernott SC 9-Nov-2011
Unmarried Couple – Equal division displaced
The parties were unmarried but had lived together. They now disputed the shares in which they had held the family home. It had been bought in joint names, but after Mr Kernott (K) left in 1993, Ms Jones (J) had made all payments on the house. She . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Trusts, Family

Updated: 30 April 2022; Ref: scu.199945