In February 2017, the Supreme Court decided that a cohabitee was entitled to receive her deceased long-term partner’s pension, in the same way a married spouse would have been entitled to.
Denise Brewster’s victory at the Supreme Court may improve the rights of other cohabitees throughout the UK, when she challenged a ruling that she was not automatically entitled to her partner’s pension when he died as they were not married, despite living together for ten years. Her partner’s pension scheme allows married partners to automatically receive a pension, but unmarried partners need to opt in, by completing a nomination form, which he had not done. The Supreme Court decision for Denise Brewster to receive her deceased partner’s pension was after the Court stated that not to receive it was “unlawful discrimination” and the opt-in nomination form rule breached the European Convention on Human Rights.
Will this decision steer the Government closer to equal rights for cohabitees as married people? At the moment, the law still has a clear distinction between the rights granted to married people and the rights (or lack of them) given to cohabitees. The decision in the Supreme Court has significant implications for the six million people living together.
There is no such thing as a common-law husband or wife, and very few rights are given to a cohabitee. If you live in a property owned in the sole name of your cohabitee you do not automatically have an interest in that property, despite living together for a long time. If you are financially dependent upon your partner, perhaps because you are at home caring for the children, you are not entitled to claim maintenance for yourself if you separate. Most people would consider this entirely unfair bearing in mind approximately 10% of the population is part of a cohabiting couple and is recognised as the fastest growing family type in the UK.
This follows on the heels of the Resolution Parliamentary Lobby Day in November, part of which was lobbying for cohabitants rights, urging the Government to review these.
For further advice on cohabitation, please contact our Family Law team on firstname.lastname@example.org