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As the law stands cohabitees are not able to claim the government-funded widowed parents allowance (WPA). Campaigners like pressure group Resolution argue that it’s just one example of the discriminatory treatment of the six million or so people who live together without being married. But could a recent Supreme Court decision mean the WPA is about to be extended so that the cohabitees can also benefit when one partner dies?

 

What Is The Widowed Parent’s Allowance?

The WPA is available to those whose husband, wife or civil partner died before 6 April 2017. If death occurred after that date a bereavement support payment may be available. It consists of a lump sum payment, currently £3,500 followed by 18 monthly payments of £350 So it’s a considerable benefit.

 

What Has The Supreme Court Decided?

A Northern Ireland woman, Siobhan McLaughlin discovered that when her partner, John Adams, died in 2014 she couldn’t access the WPA. This was despite the fact they had cohabited for more than 20 years and had children together. In a widely publicised decision the Supreme Court upheld Ms. McLoughlin’s claim that the rules on WPA discriminated against her and her children and represented an infringement of their human rights.

In her judgment the Supreme Court president Baroness Hale said limiting WPA benefits to married couples and civil partners could not be justified. She stressed that the needs of children of cohabitees are exactly the same to the needs of children of married couples.

 

When Will The Law On Bereavement Benefits Change?

That’s up to Parliament. Despite calls by a parliamentary committee as far back as 2016 to remove he marriage/civil partnership stipulation there have been no signs of any intention to change the law. Having said that the Supreme Court decision is likely to increase the chances of a change to the law that would impact up to 2,000 families. We’ve seen recently how the Supreme Court decision in Owens v Owens led almost immediately to a consultation on no-fault divorce . Could the WPA be the subject of a similar change? It remains to be seen.

 

A Word About Private Pensions

While all pension schemes have their own rules and benefits, cohabitees should examine the terms closely. While there is often an automatic payout to husbands, wives and civil partners, unmarried partners may need to explicitly nominate their partner as a beneficiary to receive any post death lump sum. And not all pension providers will permit this. If you have concerns you should approach your pension provider directly.

 

Contact Us

Cohabitees can encounter a number of legal issues that married couples don’t. For advice you can call us on +44 (0) 20 7430 8470 or contact us online.

Widowed Parent’s Allowance: Can Cohabitees Claim?

Date: October 4th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

    As the law stands cohabitees are not able to claim the government-funded widowed parents allowance (WPA). Campaigners like pressure group Resolution argue that it’s just one example of the discriminatory treatment of the six million or so people who live together without being married. But could a recent Supreme Court decision mean the… Read the full article

Will I have to split my inheritance if I divorce?

Date: August 27th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  The division of assets is often a thorny issue in divorce. What forms part of the matrimonial ‘pot’ available for division? And what assets should be ring-fenced from inclusion in the financial settlement? Many people believe inherited money or property should not be in the mix when it comes to divorce. That’s because an… Read the full article

What is a separation agreement?

Date: August 21st, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  A separation agreement or ‘Deed of Separation’ is often used as a precursor to divorce. You and your spouse or civil partner may not yet be absolutely sure that you want to divorce. Or you may not be able to establish the necessary grounds for divorce but wish to live apart. In these circumstances… Read the full article

What Happens If My Spouse Spends Heavily Before Our Divorce To Reduce My Financial Settlement?

Date: July 20th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  It’s a well-worn divorce cliché. An aggrieved spouse starts to empty joint accounts and spend his or her savings to stop the other benefitting from the money in an imminent divorce settlement. We have already seen that full financial disclosure is required in divorce proceedings. And we have also looked at what happens when… Read the full article

When My Business Partner Divorces Is There A Risk That The Business Could Be Split?

Date: July 12th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  If you are in business with someone going through a divorce the fear that your co-owner’s changed financial circumstances could threaten your business is understandable. But it’s important to realise that it is difficult for a court to unilaterally make an order in divorce proceedings that could affect third parties such as a business… Read the full article

If I’m Not Happy With My Divorce Outcome, Can I Go Back To Court?

Date: June 15th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  It can sometimes be that one party in divorce proceedings, upon reflection, feels dissatisfied with the final financial order. Even when the settlement has been reached by consent. But reopening a case is never something to embark on lightly. That’s because the courts in England and Wales put a premium on the principle of… Read the full article

What Is No-Fault Divorce?

Date: June 12th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  No-fault divorce means a couple can obtain a divorce without one of them having to prove the other party is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. The simple assertion of irreconcilable differences is sufficient for the court to grant a decree of divorce.   Can I Get A No-Fault Divorce In England?… Read the full article

Can My Spouse Take The Children To A New Location Away From Me?

Date: May 18th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  We understand the fear and panic you may feel if your spouse threatens to move away with your children. You do have legal options available to you so it is always useful to seek legal advice at an early stage. At Brookman in London we deal with this issue regularly. Usually in one of… Read the full article


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Very helpful and thorough advice. Highly Recommend!