Cowcher v Cowcher [1972] 1 W.L.R. 425 

Constructive Trusts – Beneficial Interest – Common Intention – Property - Divorce


Mr and Mrs Cowcher were together for almost 20 years, marrying in 1953. In 1963, they had bought a house together to live in, but it was in the husband’s name. Mr Cowcher had paid the cash deposit, as well as an additional loan secured from an insurance company for the mortgage. There was also a 25 year endowment policy on the life of Mr Cowcher for the benefit on his wife. Mrs Cowcher contributed money to her husband’s business and also paid some mortgage interest on the house and premiums on the policy. In 1971, a divorce was granted on the grounds of adultery.


The issues in this case concerned whether the wife had a beneficial interest in the property and if the co-ownership shares could be altered by the original contributions to the purchase price.


It was decided by the court that the policy was held on trust for the wife and the money of the property sale would be held on trust for Mrs Cowcher and Mr Chowcher as tenants in common. One third would be to the wife and two-thirds for Mr Chowcher, based on the purchase of the house. Justice Bagnall stated that this decision was based on the law that had been developed over time and was not to be decided on the basis of fairness. Although the wife had done a lot for her husband, this did not mean there was a reason in law for a larger share in the property.