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Spouse and cohabitee claimants under the 1975 Act: meeting in the middle?
Date:19 JUN 2013

Ruth Hughes

Barrister, 5 Stone Buildings 

In this article, Ruth Hughes discusses claims by spouses and cohabitees under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.  The recent cases of Musa v Holliday [2013] 1 FLR 806, Lilleyman v Lilleyman [2013] 1 FLR 47, Iqbal v Ahmed [2012] 1 FLR 31 and Cattle v Evans [2011] 2 FLR 843 are all considered in detail.  Most important is Lilleyman v Lilleyman which was a decision of Briggs J (as he then was) concerning the hypothetical divorce comparator in the context of an estate with a large portion of non-matrimonial property in the context of a large estate and a short marriage.  Ruth also considers the possibility of providing for a spouse or cohabitee's housing need by way of a life interest in a property rather than by making capital provision for a claimant.  Ruth argues that the court has began to be more generous to cohabitees and that although a spouse can still expect more generous provision than a cohabitee in a similar position, the gap is narrowing.  This is perhaps part of a judicial trend which is also illustrated by cases concerning co-ownership of property by cohabiting couples, such as Stack v Dowden [2007] 1 FLR 1858.  The court has attempted to reform the law to correspond with a modern world where cohabitation is increasingly common and couples are less likely to be married, whereas Parliament has been reluctant to give cohabiting couples rights which are similar to married couples. 

The full version of this article appears in the July 2013 issue of Family Law.