Supreme Court rules cohabitee entitled to late partner’s pension

Posted on: February 9th, 2017

The Supreme Court ruling this week that a cohabitee can claim pension benefits under her late partner’s pension is a momentous decision and will impact on many cohabitees who until now have been denied the same rights as married couples on claiming widow pension benefits.

Mrs Brewster had been in a long-term relationship with her partner who passed away unexpectedly shortly after they had got engaged. She requested that the survivor’s element of her partner’s pension be paid to her but was told that as Mr Brewster had not specifically nominated her, she could not automatically receive this. If she had been married, that survivor’s pension would have been paid without any restriction.

With so many people now living together, it extends the rights of cohabitants on this issue and puts them in on the same level as a married couple. To date, the law provides very limited rights to cohabitees and it raises the question as to whether this is the first chink in the armour of giving cohabitees the same rights across the board as cohabitees when dealing with financial claims on separation or divorce.

The law lords ruled that discriminating between a longstanding cohabitee and a married or civil partner was a breach of human rights. The ruling does still raise some questions such as, what is a long-standing cohabitee? Do you have to be engaged, own property together to show a joint financial commitment or have been living together for a period of time and if so, how long?

All of these will need to be answered, but there is no question that this finally starts to move the law in this area and is more in tune with the fact that over six million couples are now living together without being married.