With Greta Gerwig's Barbie film hitting cinemas this summer and depicting Barbie and Ken taking a trip from their perfect Barbie Land into the real world, you might find yourself wondering what would happen if Barbie and Ken decided to set up their Barbie Dreamhouse in Scotland.

Oh, I'm having so much fun.

Well, Barbie, we're just getting started…

When picking their perfect Dreamhouse, there will no doubt be plenty of conversations over the perfect shade of pink to decorate the house and whether there is enough storage for all their incredible outfits. However, Barbie and Ken may not be thinking about what would happen should their relationship break down – perhaps life in plastic will not be so fantastic.

Whilst the laws of Barbie Land will no doubt ensure that it is still the perfect place to live post breakup, what would be the likely outcome in Scotland?

What is cohabitation?

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 provides that cohabitants can make financial claims against each other when their relationship breaks down. A cohabitant means either member of a couple who were living together as if they were married. What might be surprising is that there is no minimum period of cohabitation before a cohabitant can make a claim. If Barbie and Ken moved their Dreamhouse to Scotland, or if either Barbie or Ken had Scottish domicile, either of them would be able to make a cohabitation claim under Scots Law.

What claim can be made?

As things stand, a claim must be made within one year of the relationship ending (or within six months, if one of the cohabitants have passed away). It has been recommended that the law be reformed to allow an extension of the time limit following separation "on special cause shown". There is no formal process for ending a cohabitation, so determining that the relationship has ended is a factual matter. To make a successful claim on separation, the applicant must prove that they have suffered economic disadvantage as a result of the relationship or that the other party has been economically advantaged as a result of the cohabitation. It is up to the court to decide to what extent any economic advantages or disadvantages have been "offset". Examples of this could be where one party has contributed a larger deposit to purchasing the property than the other, or where one party has benefited financially from the relationship but has given up their employment to care for a child of the relationship. As the courts tend to take a broad brush approach to cohabitation claims, it is difficult to predict what the outcome of the case will be should it be argued in court.

Can Barbie and Ken protect themselves?

Yes. It may seem unromantic, but prior to purchasing their Dreamhouse Barbie and Ken could (and should) obtain advice from specialist family law solicitors in relation to a cohabitation agreement, which operates in a similar way to a pre-nuptial agreement. Such agreements can be as simple or as complex as the couple wish. Along with entering into a cohabitation agreement, Barbie and Ken would likely be advised to put wills in place to ensure that their wishes were followed on their death as cohabitants do not have the same protections as a married couple.

If you wish any advice in relation to this issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.


Joanne Hunter