A Northern Ireland woman who was refused payments from her former partner’s pension has won her battle to extend benefits automatically to those who are unmarried.
Denise Brewster, from Coleraine, had been living with Lenny McMullan for 10 years. They were engaged on Christmas Eve 2009 but he died suddenly in the early hours of Boxing Day morning.
Her victory at the supreme court marks a significant extension of the rights of unmarried cohabitees.
Barbara Reeves, a family law solicitor in the firm Mishcon de Reya, said: “Today’s judgment brings Northern Ireland in line with England, Wales and Scotland with regards to the rights a surviving cohabitee has to their partner’s pension.
“However, the decision brings into sharp focus the issue of what happens when a cohabitational relationship ends by separation rather than by death. Our legal system largely ignores the needs and obligations of the adult members of separated, unmarried, families. Although cohabitants do have some legal protection in several areas, cohabitation does not alter a couple’s legal status, unlike marriage and civil partnership.”
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