Widow who remarried begins legal battle after benefit stopped

editorial image

A Newry woman has launched a High Court challenge to her Widowed Parent’s Allowance being allegedly stopped because she began living with another man.

Marina Lennon’s lawyers claim the benefit she received following the death of her first husband was unlawfully halted – creating a deterrent to forming a new relationship.

Her bid to judicially review the Department for Communities over the decision has been listed for a full hearing early next year.

The challenge raises different issues to the landmark case taken by unmarried Co Antrim mother of four Siobhan McLaughlin.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled the decision to deny Ms McLaughlin a widowed parent’s allowance when her partner died breached the family’s human rights.

But Mrs Lennon, the mother of a teenage daughter, had been granted the benefit after her first husband, Barry McKeown, passed away in October 2012.

It was only when she started cohabiting with another man – who she went on to marry – that the payments were stopped, according to her solicitor.

Ciaran O’Hare claimed that decision breached her right to private and family life under European law.

“People should not be placed in a worse off financial position upon co-habitation and marriage,” he said.

“Essentially, to stop paying Widowed Parent’s Allowance because the recipient has formed another relationship, in our view, constitutes a deterrent towards forming relationships.”

He added that Mr and Mrs Lennon believe they are financially worse-off since moving in together and getting married, compared to when they were living apart.

“Crucially, in these types of scenarios the children are worst affected by the decision to stop payments of Widowed Parent’s Allowance,” Mr O’Hare said.

“My client states that it is hard enough for a child to get over the grief of losing a loved one, and no further hardship should then be caused to them by a financial entitlement being removed.”

The legal attempt to have the decision quashed will be heard in February.