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International Family Law

The leading authority on international family law

08 FEB 2017

Re Brewster for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2017] UKSC 8

Re Brewster for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2017] UKSC 8
The Supreme Court unanimously allows Ms Brewster’s appeal and declares that the requirement in the 2009 Regulations that the appellant and Mr McMullan should have made a nomination be disapplied; and that the appellant is entitled to receive a survivor’s pension under the scheme. Lord Kerr gives the judgment, with which the other Justices agree.

Responding to this decision,  Graeme Fraser, Resolution's spokesperson on cohabitation said:

'Today's Supreme Court decision is highly significant for millions of unmarried couples in the UK in being placed on a fairer footing. It is hoped that this decision will pave the way for further recognition of their family rights and needs not only by the Courts but by Parliament.

As the fastest growing family type in the UK, it’s crucial that these 3.3m cohabiting couples, alongside any children they may have, are provided considerably greater legal protection. Otherwise, as things stand, they are left vulnerable on the death of their partner or on relationship breakdown – hopefully today’s verdict paves the way for this to change.'

Rayner Grice, a partner specialising in Family Law with national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, commented:

'There is a lot of discussion regarding the need for the current law regarding cohabitees’ rights to be amended.

Currently claims between cohabiting couples are limited either on death or relationship breakdown and generally people are unaware that their rights are limited as the myth of the common-law husband or wife still prevails.

Today’s decision will be seen as quite a move forward as currently most pension schemes don’t allow a cohabiting partner to benefit, although there is no issue if you are married.

There is a call for cohabiting couples to be afforded the protection that comes automatically to married couples.

It is hoped that the Supreme Court’s decision should prompt the Government to move more proactively in modernising the law for cohabiting couples, who are currently the fastest-growing family type in the UK, currently numbering some 3.3 million.

Pension is a key area of concern, and today’s decision may well lead to pension schemes altering their policies to ensure that on death there is protection for the surviving partner.

Many couples choose not to wed, others can’t afford to. There are competing moral views but the truth remains that cohabitation doesn’t afford people the same rights in law as married couples. The question must be whether that needs to change, particularly for cohabiting families with children who have needs that require protection.'

Hilary Term
[2017] UKSC 8
On appeal from: [2013] NICA 54


JUDGMENT


Re Brewster for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland)


before
Lady Hale, Deputy President
Lord Kerr
Lord Wilson
Lord Reed
Lord Dyson


JUDGMENT GIVEN ON
8 February 2017


Heard on 24 November 2016

Re Brewster for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2017] UKSC 8.pdf
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