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Mother on state benefits wins £250,000 palimony

A mother who received state benefits has been awarded a £250,000 palimony payout against her former partner after a court battle.

Jacqueline Whigham launched a legal action against businessman Steven Owen for a share of the wealth after the break-up of their relationship.

The couple lived together for more than 26 years but at the end of their cohabitation Mr Owen had significant assets of nearly £747,000 while she had assets of just more than £10,000.

But a judge ruled that Mr Owen should pay a capital sum of £250,000 to his former partner and said: "This is a particularly deserving case."

Lord Drummond Young, at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, said: "The pursuer [Ms Whigham] made very substantial contributions, both financial and non-financial, to the family and the defender [Mr Owen] unquestionably benefited from these.

"At the same time, she was unable to develop any career of her own. To that extent she has been disadvantaged."

The judge said Ms Whigham had made substantial contributions to the running of the household and to Mr Owen's business activities. Mr Owen had worked in plumbing, drain cleaning, property development and the hotel business.

The judge said that must be compensated under the terms of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 which legislates for financial provision following the break-up of cohabitation.

Lord Drummond Young said: "In my opinion that must be reflected in a substantial award. The business provided the family with a good livelihood. They lived in a large house, they enjoyed foreign holidays and the children were able to participate in a range of leisure activities that were dependent on the family's having a reasonably good income."

He noted Mr Owen was able to fly a private aircraft as a hobby.

He said Ms Whigham now lives in a rented local authority house in Penicuik, Midlothian, and has tried to secure work as a cleaner and childminder, but due to her depression was unable to maintain that. He said: "She would like to obtain sufficient funds to put down a deposit on a house and run her own arts and crafts business."

Lord Drummond Young said Mr Owen still lived in the former family home at Spittal House, Ninemileburn, described as "a substantial property with five bedrooms", after the couple split at the start of 2011.

The judge said: "His present income from the Dial-a-Rod business in the last year for which figures are available was in excess of £54,000."

Ms Whigham, a former commis chef, had sought a payment in excess of £350,000 as a half-share of the assets when they stopped living together, with Mr Owen submitting she was entitled to nothing.

At one stage she had worked long hours cooking, cleaning and making beds at Habbie Howie's Hotel, at Ninemileburn – run as a business by a partnership of Mr Owen and his brother. She said she was paid £15 a week.

It was argued on behalf of Mr Owen the assets he had when the cohabitation ended derived not from anything Ms Whigham did, but from his partnership with his brother, who possessed considerable business ability, and from his own hard work.

Lord Drummond Young said: "I decline to hold that the pursuer made no economic contribution to the businesses; indeed, the evidence very clearly indicated the contrary."

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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