A former couple who still live together despite splitting up three years ago are fighting over the family home bought for £1.5million.
Primary school secretary Kim Springall and property developer Gary Paice were together for 32 years and had three kids but never married.
When they split in 2016 neither wanted to move out of the five-bedroom family home, which Miss Springall, 53, claims is hers alone.
She says that, because she didn’t have the “comfort” of a wedding ring on her finger, she made sure the house in Purley, Surrey, where they both live was put in her sole name.
“I needed to make sure I could survive on my own,” she told Central London County Court.
But Mr Paice, 59, a surveyor and developer, insists he and his ex agreed to share the house after he put up hundreds of thousands towards the purchase.
Now the pair are facing off across a courtroom, asking Judge Richard Roberts to decide who owns their home.
Judge Roberts heard that the former couple got together in 1983 and have cohabited since about 1999. They have three children aged 20, 19 and 15.
Their detached house was bought in Miss Springall’s sole name in 2007 for £1.5million, with her having taken out a large mortgage and – she told the judge – met all the repayments herself.
Before the house was bought, the couple had previously each invested money in property development projects together, including developments on land adjoining the house.
Mr Paice says that they bought the house under a similar arrangement, with him stumping up £660,000.
His barrister Luke Barnes told the court that despite not tying the knot they were a “very close-knit pair” before they split and that their finances had been “intermingled” and “as one”.
But Miss Springall in the witness box says she “drew a line in the sand,” making clear that the house was hers alone, as financial security for her as an unmarried woman, and as a home for the kids.
Although they were a “close-knit pair” when they bought the house, they had kept their finances separate, she said.
Miss Springall told the judge: “I didn’t have any comfort around anything.
“I needed to make sure I could survive on my own and that’s why I purchased the property.
“It was all planned. It wasn’t until we split up that he decided he had a beneficial interest.
“When I bought my house, that drew a line. I got the mortgage on my property and I bought my property. I paid everything on it.
“I wanted the house for the children’s future. I wasn’t married to Gary and I had to make sure I was secure with the children.
“That was the point of drawing a line in the sand.
“He wasn’t in a position at the time to buy the house – but I was, so I bought it.
“We had a business partnership to build on land at the back. That had nothing to do with my property at the front.”
Mr Barnes, for Mr Paice, insisted the former couple had entered into “an informal partnership in relation to all the properties”, including the house.
Mr Paice says that, on sale of the property, he is due a 42 per cent share of the total proceeds of sale, before the mortgage is deducted.
He also says that his ex is liable to repay the mortgage alone.
Miss Springall, who disputes the reason why the £660,000 was transferred to her, told the judge: “When we broke up, he decided he had an interest in the property.
“That wasn’t the case… It is my property, not his.”
Barrister Michael Horton, for Miss Springall, explained to the judge that “the relationship between the parties broke down in 2016, but they continue to reside under the one roof at the property”.
Outside court, he added: “The situation is that neither of them for various reasons wanted to move out after the end of the relationship.
“There have been proceedings in another court whereby Miss Springall sought to get Mr Paice to move out, but he resisted that, so they have in effect divvied up the house temporarily.
“They are waiting for the result of these proceedings before they can separate properly.
“If Miss Springall wins, it’s her house and she can choose what happens with it. If Mr Paice wins, he is likely to say he wants it sold so he can realise his investment.”
The hearing continues.