Cohabitant succession claim rejected

The first case on cohabitants’ succession rights under the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 ended in the failure of the claim in a judgement noted in Scottish Legal News on 24 December 2008. 

James Savage applied to Falkirk Sheriff Court for assets worth £186,000 that formed the estate of his late cohabitant Graham Voysey, who died in April 2007.  The couple had lived together from October 2004 until Mr Voysey’s death, in homes owned by Mr Voysey.  They did not enter a civil partnership, however.  Mr Savage’s application was opposed by Mr Voysey’s half-sister Sandra Purches.  Mr Savage and Ms Purches each received a lump sum of £124,840 from Mr Voysey’s occupational pension, and the former was also entitled to an annual pension payment, the value of which was £298,900. 

The sheriff’s judgement is not yet available on the Scottish Courts website, so comment cannot be offered here.  The earlier succession case of Tatiana Chebotarava v Dorje Khandro, decided in Stirling Sheriff Court on 28 March 2008,and noted here in Scots Law News, failed on grounds of lack of jurisdiction rather than on the merits of the claim.

News of the decision does however enable Scots Law News to note a previously overlooked decision on cohabitants’ rights under the Family Law (Scotland) Act, CM v STS [2008] CSOH 125, a decision of Lord Matthews issued on 2 September 2008.  This was a case about claims where a cohabitation relationship breaks down rather than being ended by the death of one of the parties.  After a 361-paragraph opinion, Lord Matthews awarded the female pursuer a total of £14,460.31, made up of a capital sum of £1,460.31 (rather than the £50,000 claimed), and £13,000 (rather than the £20,000 claimed) payable in monthly instalments of £400 in respect of the costs of bringing up the couple’s two children. 

Altogether, therefore, the courts do not so far appear to be taking an over-generous approach to the new rights of cohabitants.