This year has seen momentum grow towards family law reform following a series of landmark Supreme Court decisions. Until now, this has not prompted the government to change the law, with ministers instead opting to take soundings.
Supreme Court hattrick
The Supreme Court comprises the most specialist and experienced family law bench in living memory. The nation’s highest court is routinely adjudicating issues resulting from outdated family laws. This government has no choice but to take heed of three of the court’s most recent findings.
In May, the government was criticised in R (on the application of Steinfeld and Keidan) v Secretary of State for International Development  UKSC 32,  All ER (D) 145 (Jun) for being discriminatory in its delay in deciding whether or not civil partnerships should be extended to heterosexual couples.In July, Lord Wilson expressed ‘uneasy feelings’ and Lady Hale found it ‘very troubling’ that 68-year-old Tini Owens remains in a loveless unhappy marriage due to her failure to prove fault on her husband’s part (Owens v Owens  UKSC 41,  All ER (D) 144 (Jul)).
Finally, last month, Siobhan McLaughlin won her case that the law discriminates unfairly towards bereaved cohabitants. Non-means tested bereavement welfare benefits are being denied for the benefit of the deceased’s children, notwithstanding the deceased’s national insurance payments made during his lifetime which were in all other respects on an equal footing with those made by a deceased spouse (Re an application by Siobhan McLaughlin for Judicial Review  UKSC 48,  All ER (D) 144 (Aug).
Article continues below...