There has been a lot of publicity in recent days about Simon Cowell and his alleged fling with fellow X Factor judge Dannii Minogue. Whilst everyone has been busy discussing this, the fact that he is apparently no longer engaged to Mezhgan Hussainy seems to have gone under the radar.
However as a divorce lawyer this is something that interests me, not least because he is reported to have given Ms Hussainy his Los Angeles home, reputedly worth $5M.
Mr Cowell has a number of relatively famous ex-girlfriends - including Jackie St Clair, Sinitta and Terri Seymour - and yet it is only Ms Hussainy who became engaged to him, and it is for this reason that her status in law is rather different, as she has, effectively, access to legislation should she so wish.
In essence, under the 1996 Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act (TOLATA 1996) s.14, she could argue that because she was engaged to Mr Cowell, (and remember, 'engaged' is shorthand for 'engaged to be married'), this engagement demonstrates a deliberate assumption by both parties that the home they shared was a family home. In such a situation an application under TOLATA 1996 may be made by a trustee of land or a beneficiary with an interest in property [my italics] subject to a trust of land. The court has a broad discretionary range of powers to make orders regarding the exercise of the trustees' functions or to the nature and extent of beneficiaries' interests, including a sale or postponement of sale.
In Stack v Dowden the House of Lords issued guidance for cohabitant disputes, including "proof of any intention to share the beneficial ownership of the property that displaces the assumption that beneficial interests do follow the legal title".
Of course, we don't know whether or not a pre-nup was drawn up - it seems likely, given that the couple were engaged - or indeed if they had a living together agreement, both topics I have blogged about in the past.
In any case, it's reported that Mr Cowell has given Ms Hussainy the $5M Los Angeles home they shared anyway, so although some might say he's only pre-empting any legal action from his ex-fiance, I think it would be kinder to suggest that he is simply a very generous man. After all, he did give his ex-girlfriend Terri Seymour a $4.6M house after they split in 2008. Indeed, last year in an interview with the Guardian he said: "You can't have somebody in your life who's become accustomed to a certain thing, and just because you don't want to be in the relationship any more say to them, now everything is cut off. That doesn't make sense."
Whatever Mr Cowell's motives, I rather admire him for his generosity, and it is a mark of that generosity that he has remained on excellent terms with all of his ex-girlfriends - a rare feat indeed.
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