When a man was killed at work due to the negligence of a third party, his child (born six months after his death) was able to bring a claim for financial support under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
The child’s mother, however, could not bring a claim because she and the child’s father were not married and had not lived together as husband and wife in the same household for the two years prior to his death.
She claimed that the law excluding her from making a claim was contrary to her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, in that it discriminated against couples with less than two years’ cohabitation compared with those who have lived together for a longer period, or alternatively that it interfered with the right to respect for family life, which is also guaranteed under the Convention.
When her claim was rejected by the lower court, she appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court agreed that the treatment was discriminatory, but concluded that it was ‘objectively justified’. When framing the legislation, Parliament had to create a means of identifying relationships demonstrated to have the necessary permanence to be regarded as being more than just living together. The ‘two-year rule’ was an appropriate yardstick and justifiable on public policy grounds.
The appeal was therefore dismissed.
Living together on an informal basis can have unanticipated legal consequences because the rights in law of cohabiting couples are quite different from those which apply to people who are married or in a civil partnership.