The Supreme Court has recently given its judgment in the case of Gow v Grant, which was on appeal from the Second Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session.
The appeal was concerned with the meaning and effect of section 28 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 which, for the first time, enables a cohabitant to apply to the court for a financial provision where the cohabitation ends otherwise than by the death of one of the parties.
The Appellant, Mrs Gow, met the Respondent, Mr Grant, in 2001. They cohabited at Mr Grant’s request but eventually split up in 2008.
When the parties met Mrs Gow owned a flat in Edinburgh. After the couple moved in together, Mr Grant strongly encouraged Mrs Gow to sell her property, which she did in June 2003.
The sheriff held that there was no evidence that Mrs Gow was forced to sell the flat because she was in financial difficulties. Rather, she had sold the property in the interests of furthering her relationship with Mr Grant. The net proceeds of the sale had been used partly for her own purposes and partly for the couple’s living expenses. Mrs Gow continued to live in Mr Grant’s home until she obtained rented accommodation in June 2009.
The sheriff recognised that the language of section 28 allowed her discretion to make an order and that a precise calculation of loss, based on specific payments and receipts, did not require to be made. Her conclusion, having regard to the relevant matters, was that Mrs Gow had suffered a net economic disadvantage, and that she should be compensated in the sum of £39,500.
Mr Grant appealed to the Inner House, and was successful, resulting in the sheriff’s award of a capital sum to Mrs Gow being set aside.
Mrs Gow then appealed to the Supreme Court, which unanimously allowed the appeal and affirmed the sheriff’s finding that she had suffered economic disadvantage to the extent of £39,500.