A former couple, who for over a decade successfully defrauded the benefits system by pretending that they were separated – and ended up battling it out in court over ownership of their family home after their relationship really did end in acrimony – have received a judgment of Solomon from the Court of Appeal.
With her boyfriend’s assistance, the woman had posed as a single mother in order to maximise her entitlement to benefits. At one point during their years of dishonesty, she had owned two properties, together worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. They claimed to have been living apart since 1990 and, as part of the scam, the family home had been put in her sole name.
Following the parting of their ways, the boyfriend demanded a share of the property and a judge found that they had entered into a series of transactions in order to disguise the truth that they had been co-habiting until 2011. He nevertheless found that the boyfriend was entitled to half the property on the basis that he had paid the mortgage from his legitimate earnings.
In dismissing the woman’s challenge to that ruling, the Court of Appeal found that the boyfriend’s stake in the property ‘did not depend’ upon income derived from benefit fraud. He had been ‘the main breadwinner’ and they had mutually intended that they should have an equal share in the property. He did not need to rely on an ‘unlawful agreement’ in order to assert his right to an interest in the property and the woman held half of it on trust for him.