Anna Hunter, Director of Major Family Law, Newcastle and North East’s leading divorce and children’s specialists, comments that the case of Gibson v Knottenbelt was reported in the media last week and serves as a cautionary tale to those making financial contributions to a partner’s property without documenting the intention behind those contributions or entering into a formal agreement setting out the expectations of both parties.

Lorna Gibson entered into a relationship with Dr Knottenbelt sometime in 2005 although it is reported they never lived together. The relationship was a serious one and lasted over a number of years. Ms Gibson anticipated marriage.

During the course of the relationship Ms Gibson and various family members assisted with the renovation of Dr Knottenbelt’s dilapidated three bedroomed property, carrying out considerable work. The property remained in Dr Knottenbelt’s sole name. Shortly after Dr Knottenbelt moved in to the property he ended the relationship with Ms Gibson.

Ms Gibson sought costs in respect of the work carried out and claimed that there had been a verbal agreement that she would be entitled to half the share of the home (valued at £500,000) in return for the contribution made to the renovation work and living expenses. Dr Knottenbelt denied this was the case .

The judge concluded that there was no evidence that an agreement in place and that accordingly Ms Gibson had no entitlement to any share of the property. An assessment of the value of the works carried out was made by the judge at £12,000 (not the £67,000 approx claimed by Ms Gibson). Costs were awarded in Dr Knottenbelt’s favour.

This case is a clear example of the importance of drawing up legal agreements to protect contributions made by one party to another in a relationship whether cohabiting or note.