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Denying Widow's Allowance to Unmarried Mother Ruled Illegal

Denying Widow's Allowance to Unmarried Mother Ruled Illegal

The Supreme Court has ruled that denying the unmarried mother of four children a Widowed Parent’s Allowance is illegal, a decision that significantly extends the rights of unmarried couples. By a majority of four justices to one, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the current law on the allowance is 'incompatible' with Human Rights legislation.

The decision was made by the Court on the basis that the government’s refusal to pay up to £117 a week in benefits breached the family’s human rights. Whilst this does not change the law, it does mean that the law, as it stands at present, conflicts with Human Rights legislation.

The mother of four children, whose partner had died from cancer, was refused a bereavement payment and Widowed Parent’s Allowance because they were neither married nor in a civil partnership.

Although the ruling deals with the issue of state benefits, it highlights issues pertaining to areas in which there is a significant difference in how the law treats couples who live together without being married (cohabiting couples) and those who are married.

Cohabiting outside of marriage has become increasingly common in the UK throughout the last two decades. In 1996 there were 1.5 million cohabiting partners in the UK; by 2017, the figure had risen to 3.3 million.

What is Widowed Parent's Allowance?

The Widowed Parent's Allowance is a weekly benefit for widows, widowers, or surviving civil partners, who were bereaved before 6 April 2017, and have a dependent child or are pregnant. If your husband, wife or civil partner passed away on or after 6 April 2017, you may be able to claim Bereavement Support Payment instead.

The recent case regarding an unmarried mother of four’s right to receive this allowance has highlighted the difference in the rights of cohabiting, unmarried couples compared to those of couples who are married or in a civil partnership.

The Common Law Myth

Many people mistakenly believe that cohabiting partners have the same legal and financial rights and protections as married couples upon separation and upon the death of a partner. However, an unmarried couple’s legal rights when their relationship unfortunately ends or one of them dies are very different to the rights of married couples. To summarise, those who are not married have very few of the protections given to spouses upon divorce, or to a widow or widower following the death of their partner. Put simply, there is no such thing as a common law spouse or partner, regardless of the length of cohabitation.

Seeking Advice from Lawson-West Solicitors

If you are concerned about your position with regards to issues which may arise following separation, or in the unfortunate event of your partner’s death, please contact Lawson-West on 0116 212 1000, or fill out a contact form on our website.

With offices in Leicester, Wigston and Market Harborough our team of solicitors and lawyers is able to offer advice at any of our branches. We welcome a free discussion with you regarding your circumstances.

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