Unmarried woman wins pension battle - comment from Family Department at Mishcon de Reya
Barbara Reeves, a Partner in the Family Department at Mishcon de Reya, says:
Today's judgment brings Northern Ireland in line with England, Wales and Scotland with regards to the rights a surviving cohabitee has to their partner's pension. In this sense, the decision is welcomed. However, the decision brings into sharp focus the issue of what happens when a cohabitational relationship ends by separation rather than by death. Our legal system largely ignore the needs and obligations of the adult members of separated, unmarried, families. Although cohabitants do have some legal protection in several areas, cohabitation does not alter a couple’s legal status, unlike marriage and civil partnership.
As a result of parliamentary inertia, a significant proportion of the adult population has, in effect, been marginalised by the law. There are over three million cohabiting couples in England and Wales, and increasing numbers of children are born each year outside of legally regulated relationships. Nevertheless it is still perfectly possible for one party in a cohabiting relationship to leave a relationship destitute, whilst the other retains all their income and wealth, including wealth generated during the relationship. This seems unfair and out of touch with the modern view of what constitutes a meaningful and committed relationship.
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