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Supreme Court rules that cohabitee is entitled to share of deceased’s partner’s pension

In the matter of an application by Denise Brewster for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2017] UKSC 8

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed an appeal by a woman from Northern Ireland, in which she claimed that she was entitled to a share of her deceased’s partner’s pension.

The applicant challenged a ruling that she was not automatically entitled to a survivor’s pension but would have been had she been married to the deceased.  The applicant and the deceased had lived together for ten years and owned their own home.  The applicant’s partner passed away a few days following their engagement.  He had worked for Translink for 15 years and paid into Northern Ireland’s local government pension scheme.

The scheme is governed by the Local Government Pension Scheme (Benefits, Membership and Contributions) Regulations 2009.  There was a provision that unmarried cohabiting partners must be nominated by their pension scheme member partner in order to be eligible for a survivor’s pension.  This nomination had not been provided by the deceased.

While the High Court allowed the challenge, the Court of Appeal disagreed and allowed the Department’s appeal, finding that the nomination requirement was neither unjustified nor disproportionate.  The Supreme Court declared that the requirement in the 2009 Regulations that the appellant and the deceased should have made a nomination be disapplied and that the appellant was entitled to receive a survivor’s pension under the scheme.

Read Supreme Court press summary here.