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Two’s Company, Three’s A...?

September 2020

What qualifies as a relationship? 

A case recently decided by the High Court under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (“the Act”) was one where the Judge had to make the decision as to whether the Court has jurisdiction to determine relationship property rights of three people in a polyamorous relationship.

The Case

The three parties were in a polyamorous relationship for 15 years. Two of the parties were married and the third came to the relationship some 10 years later.


The Applicant in this case brought proceedings against one of her ex-partners under the Act, seeking a one third share of a property owned in that ex-partner’s name.  The property in question was a property owned by the third party in the relationship although the parties had lived on the property together for 15 years.


An interesting consideration the Court had to make in this case was whether a polyamorous relationship qualifies as “a relationship” under the Act. The Applicant argued that the Act did cover this situation and relied upon Section 52A of the Act, which allows for recognition of two contemporaneous relationships, namely a marriage and contemporaneous de-facto relationship.  This situation can arise when one married party is also in a de-facto relationship with, for example, a mistress at the same time.

The decision

The Court did not accept the claim in these proceedings and held that the Act cannot be used to divide the property of parties in a polyamorous relationship, because the parties did not consider their relationship to be two couples and instead lived altogether as a threesome.


The Court found that such a relationship does not come under the scope of the Act and ultimately decided that the question of whether polyamorous relationships should come under the umbrella of the Act needs to be one decided by Parliament, and not by the Courts. 


The reality is that the Act does not apply to relationships of more than two people, i.e “couples”. This also applies to entering into “contracting out” Agreements, or Separation Agreements. Again, such Agreements can only be entered into between two people. This leaves the question; how do you protect your property, or divide your property if you are in a polyamorous relationship? 


We are able to provide you with the most up to date advice on Family Law and Relationship Property Law, and how to protect yourself and your relationship. Although the most recent case appears to be an unusual situation, the reality is that society is accepting of many different types of relationships, and it becomes a question of how those relationships can be recognised, and how people in those relationships can protect themselves and their property.


We encourage you to contact us at as earlier stage as possible to protect yourself and your property..