Family lawyers have welcomed a Supreme Court ruling which stated that denying an unmarried mother of four a widowed parent's allowance was illegal. Judges held that the government's refusal to pay up to £117 pounds a week in benefits was a breach of the family's human rights, and in the process significantly extended the rights of unmarried couples.
Siobhan McLaughlin, from County Antrim in Northern Ireland, was refused a bereavement payment and widowed parent's allowance following the death of her partner, John Adams, who died of cancer in January 2014. The couple were neither married nor in a civil partnership.
Although the decision relates to a case in Northern Ireland, it will affect all such cases throughout the whole of the UK.
The legal rights of unmarried couples is a topic that is increasing in prominence as the number of couples choosing to marry continues to fall. In 1996, the number of cohabiting partners in the UK stood at 1.5 million – in 2017, that figure had risen to 3.3 million.
Many couples who live together mistakenly believe that they have the same legal rights and protections as married couples, but this is not the case. Parliament is being urged to clarify the rights of unmarried couples to prevent legal difficulties arising when one partner dies.
Our family lawyers can offer guidance and clarity to help you put in place arrangements to protect the rights of you, your partner and your family if you are in a cohabiting relationship.